Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chesapeake Bay shows signs of recovery, but pollution persists

Ian Simpson in Reuters: The Chesapeake Bay, North America's biggest estuary, is still ailing but making some progress as it struggles to recover from over-fishing and pollution, a partnership overseeing its revival said on Thursday.

The number of juvenile crabs is the highest in two decades, rockfish are stable and last year's "dead zone," the part of the bay without enough oxygen to support life, seems to be the smallest since 1985, the Chesapeake Bay Program said in its 2011-12 "Bay Barometer."

On the down side, water clarity was very poor and only a third of the bay met standards for dissolved oxygen, a measure of water's health. The oyster population also was at less than 1 percent of historic levels. "While we clearly have a lot of work to do, the bay is resilient and we have reason for hope," Nick DiPasquale, director of the federal and state program, said in a statement.

The Chesapeake Bay, home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals, has been fouled by decades of over-fishing and pollution. Pollutants include sediment, manure, trash and chemicals that flow into it from its 64,000-square-mile (166,000-square-km) watershed across six states.

The Chesapeake Bay Program was formed in 1983 to restore the estuary, where salt water from the ocean mixes with fresh water. It includes Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the District of Columbia, the Environmental Protection Agency and citizens groups.

The group said that most of the bay's feeder freshwater streams were in poor or very poor condition. Water murkiness and algae levels in 2011 were the worst since 2009. But the big Susquehanna Flats grass bed survived Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. In another sign of health, grasses in the middle of the Chesapeake showed "dramatic increases," the program said....

A creek beside Cedar Lane, Bethesda, Maryland, making its way to the Chesapeake, shot by Andrew Bossi, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

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