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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: May 2010

May
28
2010

Question of the Week: What is a cownose ray doing in the Gulf of Mexico?

Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week, we take a question submitted on the Chesapeake Bay Program website or a frequently asked question and answer it here for all to read.

This week’s question came from Gail in Florida: "For the past three days there have been hundreds of cownose rays along the beach. Not knowing what they were, we are surprised to find they are from the Chesapeake Bay when we researched them. Thought you would be interested to know they were down here in the gulf...even with the oil! Why would they be here?"

It's important to remember is that many of the species we associate with the Chesapeake Bay are actually just seasonal visitors. So, while an Internet search for a cownose ray may have brought Gail to, for example, our Bay Field Guide entry on the cownose ray, that does not mean they are only present in the Chesapeake Bay.

In fact, in the case of the cownose ray, they are mainly summer visitors to the Chesapeake Bay area, reaching about as far north as Kent Island, Md. from the months of May through October. They are the most common ray found in the Bay, but are not necessarily found more often in the Bay than in other places.

Cownose rays are actually found throughout the Atlantic: in the eastern Atlantic near Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea as well as in the western Atlantic from New England to Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. So Gail spotting hundreds of cownose rays in the Gulf is not that unusual. While they are not "from" the Chesapeake, those that she saw may have been in the process of migrating from the Gulf north to the Bay for the summer months.

Now to turn the tables: Have you ever seen a cownose ray in the Chesapeake Bay?

Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose your question for the next Question of the Week! You can also ask us a question via Twitter by sending a reply to @chesbayprogram! Be sure to follow us there for all the latest in Bay news and events!

Information from the Florida Museum of Natural History and ARKive.



Keywords: questions, wildlife
May
26
2010

Maryland Proposes New Regulations for Oyster Sanctuaries, Aquaculture

Maryland will expand oyster sanctuaries and aquaculture to help rebuild the Chesapeake Bay’s depleted native oyster population under a three-point plan introduced by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Maryland’s Proposed Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan is designed to enhance oyster restoration for ecological purposes and encourage the development of aquaculture businesses, while continuing to support a more targeted and sustainable public oyster fishery.

The Chesapeake’s oyster population has remained at about one percent of historic levels since 1994, greatly affecting both the health of the Bay and the shellfish industry in Maryland. During this time period, quality oyster bars in Maryland decreased by 70 percent, from 200,000 to 36,000, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Our native oyster is part of the public trust, and we have a clear and urgent responsibility to restore this iconic species to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Gov. O’Malley.

The proposal aims to:

  • Significantly increase Maryland’s network of oyster sanctuaries. The goal is to increase sanctuaries from 9 percent to 25 percent of remaining quality habitat, allowing oysters to live longer, spawn without harvest pressure and develop a natural resistance to disease over time. Maryland DNR will improve enforcement to monitor sanctuaries for poaching.
  • Increase areas open to leasing for oyster aquaculture and streamline the permitting process. This will identify 600,000 acres that can be opened to leasing for oyster aquaculture.
  • Identify areas off limits to leasing. This will allow for continued support of a more targeter, sustainable, scientifically managed public oyster fishery.

The plan is based on the findings of a six-year Environmental Impact Study of oyster restoration options, as well as the work of the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission and the Aquaculture Coordinating Council.

The regulations will be published in the Maryland register on July 2, which will begin a six-week public comment period. If approved, the regulations will take effect in early September, prior to the October 1 start of the oyster season.

Learn more about the oyster restoration plan at DNR’s website.



Keywords: oysters
May
23
2010

Question of the Week: Is a muskrat the same thing as a beaver?

Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week, we take a question submitted on the Chesapeake Bay Program website or a frequently asked question and answer it here for all to read.

This week’s question comes from Sammy: “Is a muskrat the same thing as a beaver?”

Muskrats and beavers are two different, distinct animals. They are easy to identify on land, but can be confused for one another when seen in the water.

One of the most obvious differences between the two species is their size. The American beaver (Castor canadensis) is the largest North American rodent, weighing 35-68 pounds and measuring 39-47 inches in length. Muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) are much smaller, weighing just 3-4 pounds and measuring 16-25 inches long.

Tails are another way to distinguish the two species. While the beaver’s tail is wide and flattened horizontally, resembling a paddle, the muskrat’s tail is narrow and flattened vertically.

The way muskrats and beavers use the land is also different. Beavers are the only ones that chew down trees. Tree limbs with the bark removed or lodges made of limbs and mud are telltale signs of a beaver’s presence. Muskrats also build lodges, but they are much smaller than those built by beavers and are made from marsh vegetation rather than trees.

Nutria (Myocastor coypus) are another rodent that look similar to muskrats and beavers. They typically weigh between 12 and 15 pounds and measure about 24 inches in length. Nutria are found mostly on the Delmarva Peninsula but have also been seen around the Patuxent, Potomac and Rappahannock rivers.

So if you see one of these animals in the wild, make sure to look at the shape of its tail and the overall size of its body, which are the two main ways you can tell the difference between a muskrat and a beaver.

Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose your question for the next Question of the Week! You can also ask us a question via Twitter by sending a reply to @chesbayprogram! Be sure to follow us there for all the latest in Bay news and events!

 

Information from Woodland Fish and Wildlife and University of Massachusetts.



Keywords: questions, wildlife
May
19
2010

Learn About the Health of Your Local Stream With StreamHealth

Maryland has launched a new website called StreamHealth to help residents learn about the health of their local streams and take action to improve them.

StreamHealth is an interactive online map that provides resources for citizens, watershed groups, students and other local organizations to survey their streams, receive technical guidance and learn about funding opportunities to restore and protect streams.

On the map, residents can zoom in to specific areas or search for their address to find their nearest streams, which are color-coded to show whether they are in good, fair or poor health.

Local streams are important because they flow to the Bay, feeding water – and pollution. Ultimately, the quality of local streams affects the quality of the entire Bay.

“The health of the Bay is ultimately determined by what we do on the land – in our cities and towns, on our farms and forests, in our schools and backyards,” said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. “Through this website we are providing information that is real to people because they can see the status of the streams in their neighborhoods –- our lifelines to the Bay.”

The StreamHealth map includes information about forested buffers and impervious surfaces, two of the major factors influencing the health of streams. Forested buffers planted along streams slow pollution from entering waterways, while impervious surfaces increase the flow of pollution.

Maryland residents can get involved and help their local stream by joining Stream Waders, a volunteer water monitoring program that provides data for StreamHealth. Over the past 10 years, nearly 1,800 people have volunteered as Stream Waders at about 6,000 sites throughout the state.

The map was developed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in cooperation with the Maryland Environmental Service, Towson University and the Maryland Departments of the Environment and Information Technology.

To view the interactive map, visit www.streamhealth.maryland.gov.



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