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Chesapeake Bay News

Jun
20
2016

In review: Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week

In 2016, the Chesapeake Bay Commission worked with the legislatures of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia to designate the second week in June of each year as Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week—a time to celebrate the culture, history and natural beauty of the nation’s largest estuary.

From June 4th through 12th this year, residents and visitors alike participated in this inaugural celebration by attending events, participating in restoration activities and learning about the importance of the Chesapeake Bay. Below are just a few of the ways communities marked the occasion.

Across the watershed, the first day of Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week coincided with National Trails Day. Events across the watershed encouraged hikers young and old, beginners and experts to enjoy the outdoors.

Mindy Ehrich, left, and Melissa Merritt of the Chesapeake Bay Program pick up trash in Annapolis, Md., on June 8, 2016. The cleanup was held to celebrate Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week. (Image by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

In Maryland:

  • The Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts hosted a screening of Beautiful Swimmers Revisted, a film by author Tom Horton, photographer Dave Harp and filmmaker Sandy Cannon Brown that looks back at William Warner’s 1976 Pulitzer Prize winning book about the Bay’s iconic blue crab.
  • Hundreds of kayakers took to the waters of the Inner Harbor for the inaugural Baltimore Flotilla for a Healthy Harbor, to draw attention to water quality in the city.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Foundation held its annual Bands in the Sand at the Philip Merrill Environmental Center.
  • Former State Senator Bernie Fowler measured a ‘sneaker index’ of 31 inches in his annual Patuxent River Wade-In.

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, center, tours the Gross Family Farm in York County, Pennsylvania, on June 7, 2016. (Image courtesy Pennsylvania Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Program)

In Pennsylvania:

  • State Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding toured a family farm in York County, supporting the work that farmers in the area are doing to reduce agricultural runoff. The Gross Family Farm was highlighted as a model for best practices that help prevent excess nutrients and sediment from flowing into the Bay.
  • Hundreds of cyclists toured Harrisburg’s 20-mile Capital Area Greenbelt, which follows along the Susquehanna Riverfront, at the Tour De Belt event.
  • Dozens of Susquehanna sojourners set off from Laceyville on a five-day canoe and kayak trip down the river’s North Branch.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources hosted a variety of events, from guided hikes to birding workshops to educational talks.

As part of Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week, conservation farmer Bobby Whitescarver gave a tour of where his land meets the Middle River in Swoope, Virginia. Left, a root wad is installed to stabilize a stream bank in 2004. Right, the same streambank on June 12, 2016. (Images courtesy Bobby Whitescarver)

In Virginia:

  • The Chesapeake Bay Foundation kicked off Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week with their annual Clean the Bay Day. According to the nonprofit, nearly 6,000 volunteers at more than 260 sites across the state cleaned up 138,000 pounds of litter.
  • State Senator Emmett Hangar visited with farmers from Augusta County to recognize their work to improve local water quality, such as using fences to prevent livestock from entering nearby streams.
  • Bobby Whitescarver—a conservation farmer in Swoope, Virginia—gave a tour of where the Middle River runs through his land, showcasing the buffers and fences he uses to protect the waterway’s health.
  • The Nature Generation hosted more than 70 guests for its Catch and Count Creek Creatures event, where participants worked to test and improve the water quality of South Fork Catoctin Creek.

 

How did you celebrate Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week? Let us know in the comments!



Jun
17
2016

Evaluations show continued progress in Bay cleanup

According to evaluations released today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Chesapeake Bay Program partners are collectively on track to meet the phosphorus and sediment reduction commitments of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), but further reductions in nitrogen are needed to meet upcoming pollution-reducing goals.

Best management practices, or "BMPs," like the buffered streams at Brubaker Farms in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, can help can help towns, cities and states lower the amount of pollution flowing into local waters.

Every two years, federal agencies and the watershed jurisdictions—which include Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia—report on the progress made toward reducing the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution entering local rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay. Under the TMDL, jurisdictions must have all essential pollution-reducing practices in place by 2025, with controls in place to achieve 60 percent of the needed reductions by 2017. As a whole, jurisdictions are on track to meet the upcoming phosphorus and sediment commitments, but according to EPA, they are unlikely to meet the 2017 requirements for nitrogen pollution.

The EPA will continue to oversee the watershed jurisdictions’ pollution-reducing efforts, and will offer further attention to some pollution sectors—including wastewater in Delaware and New York; agricultural runoff in Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania; and urban and suburban runoff in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia—to ensure partners remain on track to meet their 2017 targets.

Learn more about the milestone evaluations, or read about how the wastewater sector in the Bay watershed met its 2025 goals a decade early.



Jun
17
2016

Photo of the Week: The powerful pinch of a blue crab

Tuana Phillips, a staffer with the Chesapeake Research Consortium, holds an adult blue crab during a trip to Smith Island, Maryland. With its bright blue claws, the colorful crustacean is one of the most recognizable species in the Chesapeake Bay. A blue crab’s strong claws allow it to crack open or pry apart the shells of clams, snails, mussels and more in its search for a meal.

But blue crabs don’t just use their claws to find food: they can also use the powerful pincers to defend themselves. Their sharp and strong grip can be quite painful, as anyone who has ever been pinched by one can confirm. And if threatened, a crab may break off claw or leg to try to escape predators; the limb will later regrow through a process called regeneration.

Crab claws have made headlines in recent months with viral images and videos showing the crustaceans wielding everything from cigarettes to knives. And though these posts may seem silly, as Jack Cover of Baltimore’s National Aquarium told The Washington Post, the crabs in these images are “absolutely distressed”: either unable to let go of what they’re holding or instinctively clamping their claws in self-defense. If you see a blue crab, it’s best to avoid putting anything—especially your fingers—between its claws.

Learn more about Callinectes sapidus, the blue crab.

 

Image by Will Parson

Stephanie Smith's avatar
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.



Jun
16
2016

Not your grandfather’s oyster company

Chief Farm Officer Patrick Oliver, right, and crew member Josh Dusci spread quarter-sized juvenile oysters into cages to be placed in the Rappahannock River in Topping, Va., on May 9, 2016. Rappahannock Oyster Company is a century-old business that has switched to aquaculture in recent years to yield a more sustainable harvest.

For centuries, Chesapeake Bay residents and visitors alike have enjoyed the many benefits oysters have brought them. They’re a source of income for the watermen who harvest them, joy for the people who eat them and, for everyone else, they’re the bottom-dwellers that help filter the water in the Chesapeake Bay. But decades of overharvesting have depleted oyster stock to the point where current populations are less than one percent of historic levels. To reconcile a high demand with desperately low numbers, many in the oyster business are turning to aquaculture, or underwater farming, for solutions.

Rappahannock Oyster Company was once an oyster farm like many others; buying wild spat (baby oysters), laying them underwater on leased plots for three years and then dredging them back up. But when cousins Ryan and Travis Croxton took over their grandfather’s business in 2001, they saw a chance to revitalize the company and shake up how they farmed oysters. They began trying new approaches, such as buying seeds from a hatchery instead of spat taken from the Bay, and putting them into cages instead of directly on the river bottom.

And they didn’t just change the way they farmed oysters—they also changed how they did business. A tasting room at their farm in Topping, Virginia, and oyster bars in Richmond, Va. and Washington, D.C., serve the dual purpose of bringing oysters to consumers and educating them about farm-grown oysters. Chief Operating Officer Anthony Marchetti explains that their process is more sustainable; instead of further depleting the Bay’s oyster stock, “every oyster we put in the water is one that wasn’t there before.”

Through their method of oyster farming, Rappahannock Oyster Company hopes to get their oysters to hungry customers without impacting the long-term health of the Bay. One of their goals, Marchetti says, is to take the pressure off the wild stock of oysters, to someday get back to levels where they could be harvested—with smart management—without worrying about their or the Bay’s viability.

Oyster farming is becoming the norm in Virginia. They are the most rapidly developing sector of Virginia shellfish aquaculture, and the state is number one in oyster production on the East Coast. Newcomers to the field aren’t interested in further depleting the wild populations, says Marchetti. They’re opting for aquaculture, he says, because “you reap what you sow.”

Crew members retrieve cages of mature oysters from the Rappahannock River at sunrise.

LEFT: A cage of oysters is sprayed with water just after harvest. RIGHT: A young blue crab escapes one of the oyster cages, which can provide habitat for reef species.

Workers sorting oysters keep up with a machine that automates some of the processing.

Grow-out Manager Michael Robertson helps grade oysters. Oysters that are too small for market are set aside to be returned to the water.

Crew member Richard Burlingame empties cages near a conveyor.

Burlingame shovels oysters into a bin feeding the conveyor.

After the conveyer, oysters are cleaned by spray nozzles inside a tumbler.

LEFT: Crew member Cal Smith empties a basket into a sack for delivery. RIGHT: As the oysters are sacked, they are stacked and kept cool with ice.

LEFT: Expert oyster shucker Pete Woods serves up oysters on the half shell at Rappahannock Oyster Company's tasting room, Merroir, just a few footsteps from the rest of the company's aquaculture operation. RIGHT: Merroir offers outdoor guests a view of the Rappahannock River.

Burlingame shakes an oyster cage once against the side of the boat before it is lowered into the water. It usually takes about 18 months in the cages for oysters to reach the right size.

Oliver holds juvenile oysters, known as spat, which Rappahannock Oyster Company gets from Oyster Seed Holdings, a commercial hatchery in Mathews County, Va. A paddle wheel upweller keeps river water flowing over the tiny oysters, providing them with a steady meal of plankton. "They're feeding on what's in the water naturally," Oliver said.

A worker leaves his mark next to a cage to be planted.

To view more photos, visit the Chesapeake Bay Program's Flickr page.

 

Images and captions by Will Parson
Text by Joan Smedinghoff

Joan Smedinghoff's avatar
About Joan Smedinghoff - Joan is the Communications Office Staffer at the Chesapeake Bay Program. Originally from Chicago, she was introduced to the Chesapeake Bay region through the streams of central Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor's in Environmental Studies at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where she first discovered her passion for storytelling.



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