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Chesapeake Bay News

Archives: April 2009


Get Involved this Earth Day

The Earth Day tradition began on April 22, 1970, when 20 million Americans celebrated the first Earth Day. Over the past 39 years, Earth Day has grown into a global event. 

Earth Day in the Chesapeake region is a day to take action to help restore the Chesapeake Bay.  You can celebrate Earth Day by planting a tree, picking up trash in your neighborhood or attending an event.

Many Earth Day events are taking place throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed this April. Check out this sampling of Earth Day cleanups, festivals and celebrations to find an event near you. And if you know of an Earth Day event that we have not included on this list, add it in the comments!

Washington, D.C.

  • April 17-19: Green Apple Festival, Earth Day on the National Mall
  • April 18: Anacostia Watershed Earth Day Cleanup and Rally, Bladensburg
  • April 18: Earth Day Clean Up at National Zoo
  • April 18: Clean-up at bald eagle habitat (4660 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SW) by EPA and Earh Conservation Corps
  • April 22: Shoreline cleanup at Anacostia Park by Earth Conservation Corps (9 a.m.-1 p.m. -- meet at parking lot near skating rink)




West Virginia

Keywords: volunteer

Bay Blue Crab Population Increases Significantly

Scientists estimate that a total of 400 million blue crabs overwintered in the Bay in 2008-2009, up from 280 million in 2007-2008, according to data from the latest Bay-wide winter dredge survey conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

The overall abundance of adult crabs in 2008-2009 is estimated to be about 240 million crabs, slightly more than the interim target level of 200 million set by the Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee in early 2008. The increase in adult crab abundance is due primarily to a near doubling of adult females, coupled with a 50 percent increase in adult male abundance.

It is expected that the large number of mature female crabs conserved last year will significantly increase the chances of a strong spawn in 2009.

“The sharp increase in crab abundance was not a random event, nor was it due to improved environmental conditions. It was clearly due to the recent management actions," said Dr. Rom Lipcius, who directs the VIMS component of the dredge survey. “Now, we have to ensure that these females survive to spawn this summer, and that their offspring produce a healthy spawning stock in coming years.”

Despite the adult population increase, the abundance of young-of-the-year crabs (those less than 2 inches across the carapace) did not change measurably from last year, and remains below the 18-year survey average. These crabs will become vulnerable to fishing pressure later this year and represent the 2010 spawning potential.

Last spring, in response to scientific data that showed the Bay-wide population of blue crabs had plunged 70 percent since 1993, the governors of Maryland and Virginia agreed to work collaboratively on a Bay-wide effort to rebuild the species by reducing the harvest of the spawning stock of female blue crabs by 34 percent.

“While we are still above our target exploitation rate of 46 percent, the survey results represent an important first success in moving the Bay’s blue crab population to a healthier state,” said Maryland DNR Secretary John Griffin. “Now we must have the discipline to stay the course, so that we may ultimately achieve and maintain a sustainable fishery.”

For more on the 2008-2009 blue crab data, including graphs with historic population trends, visit DNR’s website.

Keywords: blue crabs

Mattawoman Creek Named One of America's Most Endangered Rivers

A highway and development threatening Mattawoman Creek in Maryland has caused this “gem” of the Chesapeake watershed to earn the number four spot on American River’s 2009 list of Most Endangered Rivers in the United States.

Mattawoman Creek is considered one of the few remaining healthy streams in the region. Located within extensive forests in the fast-growing southern Maryland region, Mattawoman is known for its clean waters and multi-million dollar largemouth bass fishery. The creek is also a key destination for migratory fish like shad, alewife and yellow perch. Populations of some of these species are more than 40 times higher in Mattawoman than in other Bay tributaries.

But its health could be in jeopardy because of a proposed extension to the Charles County Cross County Connector that would cut across the creek’s watershed, according to the American Rivers report. The Army Corps of Engineers has stated that intense development of the watershed would have “severe repercussions on the biological community and would decrease the habitat quality within the estuary.”

The project could also lead to losses of the county’s economically valuable “natural infrastructure”: the healthy forests, wetlands and floodplains that filter polluted runoff, protect homes from flooding and help improve the Bay’s overall health.

The Maryland Department of the Environment is expected to make a decision on the permit for the Charles County Connector within the next few weeks.

Each year, American Rivers chooses 10 rivers from across the U.S. that are facing the most uncertain futures for its Endangers Rivers list. American Rivers solicits nominations for the most endangered rivers from thousands of river groups, environmental organizations, local governments and everyday citizens.

Visit the American Rivers website to learn more about the Endangered Rivers List.


Officials Rule Against Introducing Asian Oysters into Bay

Officials with Maryland, Virginia, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) have decided against introducing Asian oysters as a way to restore the Bay’s degraded oyster population, citing “unacceptable ecological risks.” The states will instead focus on native oyster restoration.

The native-only restoration strategy will be published in the final Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which is due to be published in late June.

The official statement released by the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration Executive Committee -- which includes the Corps, the PRFC and the natural resource secretaries from Maryland and Virginia -- reads:

Based on the current state of the science and extensive public discourse, the use of non-native oysters in Chesapeake Bay, its tidal tributaries, and the coastal bays and waters of Maryland and Virginia poses unacceptable ecological risks.

Therefore, it is prudent for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia and Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) to adopt a native oyster only preferred alternative for purposes of the PEIS. In selecting the native oyster alternative, the Corps, together with the cooperating federal agencies, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia and PRFC will remain fully committed to using only the native oyster to work towards revitalizing oyster restoration and aquaculture in meeting commercial and ecological goals. Furthermore, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia and PRFC will work towards implementing biologically and economically sustainable harvesting measures for the public oyster fishery. Finally, the Corps, together with the cooperating federal agencies, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia and PRFC will pursue the establishment of realistic metrics, accountability measures and a performance based adaptive management methodology for all efforts in revitalizing the native oyster for purposes of achieving commercial and ecological goals.

The governors of Maryland and Virginia praised the committee’s decision.

"I am extremely pleased that we have reached an agreement on a preferred oyster restoration alternative, one that will not threaten the Bay's already stressed ecosystem,” said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. “We look forward to collaborating with our partners in Virginia to use new science developed through this extraordinary study to support both the ecological restoration of our native oyster and the revitalization of our oyster industry with emphasis on new aquaculture opportunities."

"While we have seen certain promise in ariakensis aquaculture from the Virginia Seafood Council trials over the past seven years, we agree -- based on the recommendations of our Virginia Institute of Marine Science -- that moving forward we should focus primarily on restoring the Bay's native oyster," said Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.

The full Oyster Restoration PEIS Executive Committee is made up of the Norfolk District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the secretaries of natural resources for Maryland and Virginia, working with the PRFC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Visit the Corps’ website for more information about the Oyster Restoration PEIS.

Keywords: oysters
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