A lion's mane jellyfish visits Spa Creek in Annapolis, Maryland, on January 18, 2017. Sometimes called the “winter jellyfish,” the lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) visits the Chesapeake Bay region from late November through March. Their preference for frigid, Arctic temperatures means they only venture down from northern latitudes when waters are sufficiently cold.
The type of lion’s mane jellyfish that visits the Bay is planktonic, meaning it floats where the currents take it—so while the lion’s mane is not an uncommon sight in the Chesapeake Bay, its presence can be unpredictable. When water currents and chilly temperatures align to bring them to the area, though, they’re easy to spot, because they prefer to float near the water’s surface.
Like the sea nettles that are prevalent in summer months, lion’s mane jellyfish have stinging tentacles. But since fewer people are out swimming in the chilly waters of January—except, perhaps, those participating in a Polar Bear Plunge—swimmers are less likely to suffer the lion’s mane’s sting.
Lion’s mane jellyfish that visit the Bay average about four to six inches in diameter, similar in size to the sea nettle. Travel further north, however, and you may encounter a much larger specimen. In 1870, the largest recorded lion’s mane jellyfish washed up along a beach in Massachusetts: its body measured more than seven feet in diameter, and its tentacles were 120 feet long.
Learn more about jellyfish that can be found in the Chesapeake Bay.
Image by Will Parson
Hutch Walbridge, Wildlife Biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, places an identification band on the leg of a female American black duck on a farm in Church Creek, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, on March 5, 2013.
Not truly black, the dark, dusky-brown plumage of the American black duck (Anas rubripes) appears black from a distance. This shy, native waterfowl can be found year-round along the quiet, isolated tidal wetlands of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. When food sources in the north become scarce in colder months, additional ducks migrate to the Bay region to overwinter.
Black ducks were once the most abundant dabbling duck in eastern North America. But as the Bay’s wetlands disappeared, black duck populations dropped dramatically. In the 1950s, close to 200,000 black ducks spent their winters in the Chesapeake Bay region. But recent estimates show that, from 2013 and 2015, just over 51,000 black ducks overwintered on the Bay each year.
Marshes and wetlands in the Bay region are critical to the long-term survival of the black duck. Protection of the area’s remaining tidal marshes—along with large-scale habitat restoration projects like Poplar Island—helps provide the birds with the habitat and food sources they need. Under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, our partners are working toward having enough habitat to support 100,000 wintering black ducks by 2025.
Learn more about what experts are doing to conserve habitat for the American black duck.
Image by Will Parson
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has reported a modest improvement in Chesapeake Bay health since 2014. The nonprofit gave the estuary a grade of “C-” in its biennial State of the Bay report, noting reductions in water pollution and increased abundance of blue crabs, oysters and other fisheries.
The score of 34 on a one-to-100 scale marks an improvement of two points from the 2014 report—which gave the Bay a “D+” grade—but remains well short of the Foundation’s goal of 70, representing an “A+” or a “saved Bay.”
According to the report, nine of the 13 indicators of Bay health showed signs of recovery, including dissolved oxygen, water clarity, underwater grass abundance and populations of blue crabs, striped bass, oysters and shad. Of those indicators, blue crabs showed the greatest improvement, with the number of adult crabs having roughly tripled since 2014. Three of the indicators—toxic contaminants, wetlands and resource lands—showed no change from the previous report, and one indicator, forest buffers, declined.
The report attributed improvements in water quality in part to continued implementation of the “Clean Water Blueprint,” or Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load—a comprehensive plan to reduce pollution going to the Bay and its rivers and streams.
The Chesapeake Bay Program will publish Bay Barometer, its annual snapshot of watershed-wide health and restoration, later this month. The Bay Program is a voluntary partnership that includes the six watershed states of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia; the District of Columbia; the Chesapeake Bay Commission; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency representing the federal government.
Read the 2016 State of the Bay report.
Captain Pete Ide throws a freshly caught striped bass onto the dock in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, after a charter fishing excursion on the Chesapeake Bay on November 11, 2016.
For hundreds of years, striped bass—also known as rockfish or stripers—have been one of the most popular commercial and recreational fish in the Chesapeake Bay, which is the largest striped bass nursery area on the Atlantic coast. Experts estimate that up to 90 percent of the Atlantic striped bass population uses the Bay and its tidal tributaries to spawn.
In the early 1970s, the striped bass industry experienced record-high catches: in 1973, the commercial fishery landed 14.7 million pounds. But in the years that followed, commercial and recreational catches declined steeply, and by 1983, the harvest had fallen to just 1.7 million pounds. Scientists attributed the sharp decline primarily to overfishing, which may have made the striped bass more susceptible to stressors like changes in water temperature, low dissolved oxygen, chemical contaminants and poor water quality.
After fishing moratoria throughout the late 1980s in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay striped bass fishery re-opened in 1990. Since then, striped bass abundance in the Bay has dramatically increased. According to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, in 2015, the biomass of adult female striped bass along the Atlantic Coast was estimated to be 129 million pounds—above the overfishing threshold of 127 million but below the target of 159 million pounds. And while results of Maryland’s 2016 juvenile striped bass survey were well below the long-term average, scientists expect successful spawning years in 2011 and 2015 to compensate for the below-average year.
Learn more about striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay.
Image by Will Parson