Our favorite "beautiful swimmers" (AKA blue crabs) were quite popular in 2016! Photo by Nick Fornaro.
From shark sightings (yes, really!) to Supreme Court wins to increasing blue crab numbers, 2016 has been quite the year for the Bay and its rivers and streams. To get an idea of all the stuff—both good and bad—that this year brought, we thought we'd take a look at our Top 5 Facebook posts of 2016. And here they are:
1. Life is sweet! Or so it appears to be in our Smith Island Cake video. Smith Islander and baker extraordinaire Mary Ada Marshall invited us into her kitchen and showed us (and the more than 282,000 other people who watched the video) just how to make the quintessential Chesapeake dessert. This video was our most popular Facebook post of the year, reaching more than 1.3 million people!
2. We love our "beautiful swimmers," and apparently so do you! News of the 35 percent increase in the Bay's blue crab population came in at our second most popular Facebook post this year, reaching more than 629,000 people.
3. In a huge win for the Bay (and for Facebook, reaching more than 420,000 readers), the Supreme Court decided in February to deny the request of the American Farm Bureau Federation and its allies to take up their case challenging the legality of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. As CBF Vice President for Litigation Jon Mueller said: "For five years we have fought in the courts to defend a commonsense solution to reducing pollution, a solution borne of a cooperative relationship between the states, the federal government, and the citizens of the Bay Region. Today, that fight has ended."
4. Giant Blue Crabs?! That's right! In October, we caught and released one of these beauties on the Susquehanna Flats. It got the attention of more than 388,000 blue crab lovers on Facebook.
5. In June, we took a trip beneath the surface of the Severn River where we saw abundant grasses, scampering blue crabs, and thick, healthy oyster reefs — incredible signs of the Bay's recovery! Our River Reborn Video was an instant hit on Facebook, reaching more than 370,000 people and earning more than 213,000 views. I smell an Oscar!
For those of you who made it all the way through our Top 5 list, congratulations! And make sure to follow us on Facebook (if you aren't already) for the latest and greatest in 2017 . . .
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media
From dolphins, to sharks, to manatees, the Bay is always full of surprises. This week revealed yet another, as a gigantic blue crab was caught and released on a CBF education trip. In addition to this monster crab, students also observed an abundance of underwater grasses, soaring bald eagles, and countless other critters.
Witnessing the flourishing wildlife in the Bay reminds us why we love the Bay. And while giant crabs aren't caught on every CBF education trip, thousands of students join us on the water every year, leaving with a greater appreciation of the Bay and its rivers and streams.
But we can't take this national treasure for granted. These waters face a bevy of threats. To save the Bay and conserve it so future generations can also experience its natural wonders, we need to fully implement the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Leaving a legacy of clean water will not only ensure expanded recreational opportunities, improved public health, and massive economic benefits, it will also allow our children to witness the truly priceless wonders of the Bay—from a playful pod of dolphins, to reefs of water-filtering oysters, to even a gigantic blue crab.
This Week in the Watershed: A Giant Crab, Good Stewards, and Grass Seeds
- A giant blue crab was caught on a CBF Education trip in the lower Susquehanna Flats, near Havre de Grace, MD, causing quite a stir on social media. (WBAL—MD) Bonus: CBF Facebook Post
- We're inspired by this story of an Eastern Shore farming family acting as good stewards over their land for generations. (Carroll County Times—MD)
- Pennsylvania students got a taste of the Susquehanna River and the critters in its waters on a trip with CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program. (Bay Journal)
- CBF staff was hard at work finding seed pods to use for our "Grasses for the Masses" program, where volunteers grow grasses over the winter and plant them in the spring in efforts to bolster the grass population in the Bay. (Free Lance-Star—VA)
- Two thumbs up to newly anointed Eagle Scout Brendan Leary of Alexandria, VA, who led a group of 53 volunteers in constructing 105 oyster cages to help restore the Bay's native oyster population. (The Zebra—VA)
What's Happening around the Watershed?
- Annapolis, MD: The Annapolis VoiCeS (Volunteers as Chesapeake Stewards) class is back! Come "back-to-school" with CBF in a six-week, professionally taught course on all things clean water. Learn about Bay science and fisheries, pollution problems and solutions, and how volunteers can help restoration efforts in their local waters and the Bay. Click here to register! Deadline to register is October 13!
- Easton, MD: The Eastern Shore VoiCeS (Volunteers as Chesapeake Stewards) class is back! Come "back-to-school" with CBF in a six-week, professionally taught course on all things clean water. Learn about Bay science and fisheries, pollution problems and solutions, and how volunteers can help restoration efforts in their local waters and the Bay. Click here to register! Deadline to register is October 13!
- Cambridge, MD: Join us at a workshop to learn more about best management practices (BMPs) to slow and filter polluted runoff. Facilitated by expert trainers with the Chesapeake Stormwater Network, this workshop is designed for local government managers and field operators with instruction in BMP inspection, maintenance, and facility failure decision-making, Participants will increase their knowledge of effectively treating polluted runoff while complying with local, state, and federal stormwater management expectations. Networking with colleagues in neighboring Eastern Shore communities enhances opportunities to learn about locally relevant problems and solutions. Click here to register!
- Virginia Beach, VA: Come on out to a sustainable living expo. This fun, family-friendly event is designed as a showcase for eco-friendly, sustainable solutions, crafts, and food, with many participating organizations. See ideas you can use at your home from edible landscaping and urban gardening to beekeeping and alternative energy. CBF is also looking for volunteers to help staff a CBF display and share information with attendees at the expo. This event is suitable for all volunteer experience levels, so come out, share, and learn. Email or call Tanner Council to inquire and volunteer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 757-622-1964.
- Woodsboro, MD: Help CBF plant over 1,000 trees and shrubs along Israel Creek on a beef cattle farm in Frederick County. Approximately 5,000 feet of stream banks will be planted resulting in six acres of new riparian buffer. Israel Creek is in the Monocacy River watershed which flows to the Potomac River then to the Chesapeake Bay. Click here to register!
- Easton, MD: Oyster season is here, and whether or not you're a fan of eating the Bay's beloved bivalve, you've probably noticed a growing number of farmed oyster varieties available in local seafood markets and restaurants on the Eastern Shore. This is a sure sign that oyster farming, also known as "aquaculture," is on the rise in Maryland. Join us for a forum on this rising trend to learn more about oyster aquaculture from experts in the field. The event is free, but click here to register!
- Smithsburg, MD: Join CBF at this recently completed stream restoration project on Little Antietam Creek and help us with the final stages of restoring the stream banks and floodplain. Volunteers will install live stakes consisting of willow cuttings as well as native trees and shrubs. Learn about stream restoration techniques used throughout the region by touring this recently completed project and lend your hand for the final touches. Click here to register!
—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate
Without a doubt, one of the most beloved critters in the Chesapeake Bay is the blue crab. A summer staple of dinner plates, the blue crab is not only ingrained in Bay cuisine, but also in the Bay's culture, history, and economy. Considering the importance of this cantankerous critter, it has always been troubling that its population is notoriously unpredictable. Many factors impact its population in a cycle that can often be boom or bust. In efforts to improve blue crab numbers, harvest restrictions are often considered as one of the most important steps to take. While harvest restrictions are vital, particularly on females, there might be an even more important factor—clean water.
Pardon the nautical pun, but clean water is "the rising tide that lifts all boats." For blue crabs, underwater grasses are critical to their survival. Blue crabs are most vulnerable when they are shedding their shell, and underwater grasses provide the cover they need to survive. However, underwater grasses are few and far between when pollution, largely from excess nitrogen and phosphorus, blocks the sunlight that grasses need to grow. Clean water not only helps blue crabs, but all flora and fauna living in and on the Bay. Not to mention, humanity benefits from clean water as well, with expanded recreational opportunities, improved public health, and massive economic benefits.
The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is the key to moving clean water efforts forward in the Bay. And a clean Bay, full of healthy, swimming blue crabs, is a legacy worth leaving to future generations. To learn more about all things blue crabs, tune into the most recent CBF podcast!
This Week in the Watershed: Burgeoning Blue Crabs, A City Showdown, and An Island Predicament
- Maryland Governor Larry Hogan focused attention on the sediment buildup behind the Conowingo Dam, calling for new ideas to address the pollution problem. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
- A public hearing on the coal ash ponds at the Chesterfield Power Station drew a large contingent of speakers imploring state regulators to impose stricter environmental requirements on Dominion Virginia Power. (Richmond Times-Dispatch—VA)
- Animal rights groups are calling attention to the unethical hunting of cownose rays in the Chesapeake Bay. (York Dispatch—PA)
- Improved water quality and underwater grasses have helped produce more—and bigger—crabs this season. (Bay Journal)
- The successful renovations at the Blue Plains wastewater treatment plant are a high note amidst a national crisis of failing infrastructure. (Center for Progressive Reform Blog)
- Virginia's Tangier Island faces an uncertain future. (New York Times Magazine)
- Lawrence County in western Pennsylvania became the latest county to adopt a Clean Water Counts resolution, becoming the 27th county in Pennsylvania to ask state officials to make clean water a priority. (New Castle News—PA) Bonus: CBF Press Release
- The cities of Boston and Baltimore have seen vastly different outcomes of local water cleanup efforts. (Baltimore Brew—MD)
- Pennsylvania farms might face new federal inspections in light of the state not being on track to meet its 2025 pollution-reduction targets. (Lancaster Intelligencer Journal—PA)
What's Happening around the Watershed?
July 15, 22, 29
- Shady Side, MD: Break a sweat and help Save the Bay—join CBF in cleaning the "homes" of the next generation of Chesapeake Bay oysters! Help restore the Chesapeake's native oyster population by cleaning oyster shells. We'll be shaking off the dirt and debris on shells so baby oysters can successfully grow on them. This "shell shaking" event is a bit of a workout but a fun, hands-on experience. With lifting involved, it is not recommended for individuals with bad backs or other health concerns. A tour of our restoration center will follow the shell shaking. Click here to register!
- Virginia Beach, VA: Join CBF for an early morning outdoors! We are looking for volunteers to help with a variety of property maintenance at the Brock Center and Pleasure House Point. We can use your help anytime from 7:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m. Activities will include cutting back phragmites around the site, removing Japanese sedge, and checking in on Libby's Garden and the rain gardens. If you are interested, please send us an email at email@example.com or call 757-622-1964. Please share with us your name, home or cell number, and your email address so we can stay in touch in case of any changes. Also please let us know if you can come out for an hour or all three hours.
- Annapolis, MD: Wondering how your favorite Bay critters are doing? Join CBF Fisheries Director Bill Goldsborough to learn the latest about what's happening underwater beneath your boat, kayak, or paddleboard! Our summer "Save the Bay" Breakfast features an ecology crash-course and updates on the health of three of the Chesapeake Bay's most iconic fishery species: oysters, striped bass, and blue crabs—plus a menhaden bonus! Come enjoy a delicious Boatyard breakfast and learn things you never knew about some of the Bay's most important—and tasty—inhabitants. Click here to register!
- Norfolk, VA: Come on out for the 19th Annual Paddle for the Bay! Paddlers with kayaks to paddle boarders and all others in between, join in this Mid-Atlantic Paddlers Association certified competition to raise funds for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Click here to register!
—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate
If the fight to save the Bay were a baseball season, there would be both victories and losses, with swings of momentum in every direction. These swings were witnessed in Maryland's General Assembly, presenting both successes and disappointments for clean water advocates over the 90-day session. Bad news first: the Poultry Litter Management Act (PLMA), a measure to hold large poultry integrators responsible for excess poultry manure, didn't get beyond committee hearings this year. Silver lining: the hearings for the PLMA started the conversation, and our fight to reduce phosphorus pollution in the Bay and Eastern Shore waterways is far from over.
Time for some good news: the Sustainable Oyster Harvest Act passed, which will provide critical pieces of scientific data still needed to help inform management of Maryland's public oyster fishery. Other good news: the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act has been signed into law, making Maryland one of the nation's leaders in greenhouse gas reduction; a budget passed favorable to many environmental agencies and programs that play key roles in Chesapeake Bay restoration, and several bad bills that would have endangered water quality were defeated. Learn more about the 2016 Maryland General Assembly.
In addition to the Annapolis happenings, there was more good and bad news from the watershed this week. Again, bad news first: we have known for some time the Susquehanna River is sick. The environmental group American Rivers agrees, declaring this week that the Susquehanna is the third most endangered river in the United States. A critical step to help the Susquehanna is officially listing it as an impaired waterway. An official impairment status will designate the river for additional study and new levels of investment in restoration. Stand with CBF and its partners in urging Governor Wolf and Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to list the Lower Susquehanna River as impaired.
The good news: a survey by Maryland's Department of Natural Resources found that the blue crab population has grown 35 percent. While science tells us the current crab population is still below recommended levels, the increase in population is a positive sign of improving water quality by implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
As all baseball fans know, the season is quite long, and no team ever has, or ever will, go undefeated. But we will continue to fight for the Bay, and work to ensure along the way there are plenty more victories than defeats.
This Week in the Watershed: MDGA Closing Time, Threatened Susquehanna, and Growing Crabs
- Students got their hands dirty learning how to build reef balls, critical structures in oyster restoration efforts. (Capital Gazette—MD)
- Maryland's General Assembly wrapped up this week, with both victories and disappointments for clean water advocates. (Bay Journal)
- Oysters are a keystone species of the Chesapeake Bay, but scientists don't have any data on just how many oysters are in the Bay. That is going to change with the passage of a bill in the Maryland General Assembly which commissions a study to provide such data. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
- How we produce and consume food in the Chesapeake Bay watershed has a major impact on the health of the Chesapeake Bay, this editorial effectively argues. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
- The Susquehanna River, the largest source of fresh water to the Bay, was named the third most endangered river in the United States by the group, American Rivers. (Lancaster Intelligencer Journal—PA)
- Lovers of Maryland blue crab received good news this week, as a survey by Maryland's Department of Natural Resources found that the blue crab population has grown 35 percent. We're not in the clear, however, as science tells us the current crab population is still below recommended levels. (Baltimore Sun—MD) Bonus: CBF Statement
- The seemingly never-ending struggle between increased development and preserving open space has visited Howard County, MD. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
What's Happening Around the Watershed?
- Cambridge, MD: Help CBF make the Choptank River cleaner and safer for the whole community during this river cleanup event. All supplies will be provided. Families and groups are welcome to attend. Click here to register!
- Shady Side, MD: Break a sweat and help save the Bay— join CBF in cleaning the "homes" of the next generation of Chesapeake Bay oysters! Help restore the Chesapeake's native oyster population by cleaning oyster shells (we call it "shell shaking") by shaking off the dirt and debris so baby oysters can successfully grow on them. This event is a bit of a workout, but a fun hands-on experience. With lifting involved, it is not recommended for individuals with a bad back or other health concerns. A tour of our restoration center will follow the shell shaking. RSVP to Pat Beall at PBeall@cbf.org or 443-482-2065. Click here for more information!
- Monkton, MD: Come help CBF plant 1,200 trees to restore six acres of forest on this new farm. The Little Gunpowder is a natural reproducing trout stream, and the restoration of this farm will help protect this cold water fishery. No tree planting experience is necessary, and all materials and supplies are provided. Families and children are welcome. Click here to register!
- Church Hill, MD: Come paddle with us on the Blackwater River in Dorchester County, Maryland. Blackwater River is a prime example of a healthy tidal Eastern Shore river, replete with large expanses of tidal marsh and pine forests. The wildlife is dominated by various species of bird life, including nesting bald eagles, ospreys, herons, and ducks. The paddle is comfortable and peaceful, offering up-close views of herons fishing in the shallows and ducks nesting in the many trees along the banks. All canoes and paddling equipment will be provided. Children ages 10 and up are welcome to register, but must be accompanied by an adult. This is a paddle for people of all skill levels. Click here to register!
- Annapolis, MD: Check out the 2016 Earth-Water-Faith Festival—a fun, family-friendly, interactive, interfaith celebration of Earth Day. Enjoy live music from Third Sunday Band, The Harmonic Fifth, and The All Children's Chorus of Annapolis, as well as activities including a "Scales and Tales" animal program, an oyster water-filtering display, kids' T-shirt printing, and celebratory readings. Free and open to the public! Click here for more information!
- Baltimore, MD: Join CBF at its 3rd Annual Baltimore Members Meeting! With trash ubiquitous in the streets and waters of Baltimore, the focus of this year's meeting is the trash epidemic, its connection to clean water, and some potential solutions. Special guest Julie Lawson, Executive Director of Trash Free Maryland, will talk about current efforts to reduce trash and waste through social marketing, good policy, and more. Food, beverages, and music included. Space is limited, register now!
- Richmond, VA: Come on out for a Speakers Bureau training with CBF! With far more requests for speakers than we have staff or time, CBF relies on its Speakers Bureau volunteers to handle a variety of speaking opportunities. Whether you are current on the issues and ready to share our message, or just enjoy public speaking and would like to get trained, we welcome your commitment to this important and high-profile program. Join us to learn the facts and skills to share our mission to Save the Bay with local groups and organizations. We simply cannot do it alone! Click here to learn more and register!
—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate
The following first appeared in the Bay Journal.
One creature invades the body of another. It snakes through the tissue and takes root, changing the behavior and appearance of its host. And then, a reproductive victory: The host must raise the invader's young in place of its own.
This sounds like science fiction, but it's not. It's a real world biological process taking place largely unnoticed in portions of the Chesapeake Bay.
The players in this drama are the small, white-clawed mud crab and an even smaller parasite called the Loxothylacus panopaei or Loxo for short.
Mud crabs infected by Loxo have been dubbed "zombie crabs" by scientists and volunteers who are working to understand the process and its impact on the crab's population. The work is led by biologist Monaca Noble and biodiversity genomics fellow Carolyn Tepolt of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, MD.
"It's kind of an amazing story," Tepolt said.
The Loxo parasite is native to the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and parts of Florida. Its presence as an invasive species in the Chesapeake region was first recorded in Virginia's York River in the 1960s, and researchers suspect it arrived on the shells of Gulf oysters that were imported to seed commercial oyster reefs.
The Loxo infects at least nine species of mud crabs throughout its range. In the Chesapeake, its target is the Rhithropanopeus harrisii, a brown crab with white claws that typically grows no larger than a human thumbnail.
In its larvae stage, the Loxo resembles a microscopic barnacle that floats freely through the water. Within days, it transforms to a more shield-like shape and seeks a host. Timing is critical. The Loxo can only infect a mud crab for about 24 hours after the crab molts, when its exoskeleton is soft and unprotected. Only females invade a host.
"They travel through the crab tissue and form rootlets, little tendrils throughout the tissue of the crab," Tepolt said.
When the process is complete, the union is disturbingly thorough. "You can't find a distinct individual parasite inside the crab, so you can't dissect it out," Tepolt said. "It's a body-snatcher."
When the crab molts again, the Loxo prepares to reproduce. A sac forms under the abdomen or apron of the crab, and a male Loxo attaches itself long enough to provide sperm. The next generation begins to form inside. The sac enlarges, pushes out the crab's abdomen, and becomes visible — the only sign of infection that can be observed without a microscope.
Thousands of larval parasites emerge from a pore in the sac about every five to 10 days. The process repeats several times before the sac is exhausted and a fresh one takes its place.
During this process, the Loxo shuts down the crab's ability to produce its own young.
"The body snatcher aspect of this is that it essentially castrates the crab, and all of its energy goes to support the parasite's reproduction," Tepolt said. "It changes the crab's behavior so that it takes care of the larvae as if they were its own eggs. They put their legs and claws around the sac in a defensive posture and attempt to protect it. Even the males do it."
Males transform physically, too. "Male crabs are feminized," Tepolt said. "The shape of their abdomen changes and gets rounder, like the females." This makes it easier for male crabs to hold, aerate, and protect the Loxo's eggs.
Tepolt and Noble are in the midst of both short-term and long-term studies that are investigating the impact on mud crab populations and the ecological conditions that might help them resist the parasite.
Smithsonian biologists began investigating the parasite 12 years ago, but the work was not always well-funded. Preserved crabs, infected and not, often sat in the lab awaiting time-intensive analysis.
In recent years, a robust volunteer program has boosted the research effort. This summer, 87 volunteers helped to collect mud crabs from the research center's dock and other sites across southern Maryland. A smaller team of regular volunteers helps in the lab year-round.
"We have information on crab size, distribution, sex ratio and whether they have the parasite or not," Noble said. "But now, going forward, the project has a second goal. How can we engage volunteers, teach them about the biology of these parasites, and teach them invasion ecology? It's a great opportunity."
As a result of volunteer support, the effort now includes 12 long-term sites and 10 sites that were added this year to support a more comprehensive analysis of the Rhode River, a small tributary south of Annapolis where the Smithsonian lab is located.
The number of mud crabs found at the sites has varied greatly from one year to the next, making it difficult to assess the larger population. In general, fewer mud crabs are found in places with more parasites, and this could be related to the shutdown of the mud crab reproductive system. Still, researchers say this particular type of mud crab is likely abundant in the Chesapeake Bay and, according to Noble, that's good.
"There are lots of animals that we don't eat that are still important to the Bay," Noble said. "Mud crabs are one of them. They are important predators. They eat a lot of things that live on oyster shells. They are also important prey for other crabs, fish and birds — a tasty treat for many things."
The presence of Loxo at study sites has varied too. "Some places don't have parasites at all and others have high abundance. Trying to tease apart the reasons is more problematic," Noble said.
Researchers speculate that low salinity and cool temperatures help to reduce infections, and preliminary data suggest mud crabs in the parasite's native range are much more resistant to attack.
But more research is needed. It could yield important information for mud crabs, as well as any potential situation in which related parasites invade the Bay and affect other species. The Loxo has not attacked blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay, but a related species of parasite does impact blue crabs in the Gulf of Mexico.
"If it's not a problem now, could it be, if conditions change?" Noble asked.
As any mountain climber can attest, reaching new heights brings with it increased difficulty. The decreasing amount of oxygen in the air makes every breath more trying, to the point where oxygen is needed through personal tanks. Even the best of athletes can find themselves out of breath when facing low-oxygen environments.
In the Chesapeake Bay, critters are finding themselves facing a similar obstacle, as increased dead zones and warming waters from our rapidly changing climate are decreasing the level of oxygen in the water. Known as hypoxia, this condition depletes the Bay of life, devastating the ecosystem.
While new research by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science reveals blue crabs are more resilient to hypoxic conditions than previously thought, other creatures it depends on for food are vulnerable. The threat is clear and the plan to save the Bay is desperately needed. The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, if implemented, can make a dramatic difference in bringing oxygen levels back to safe and healthy levels in the Bay. Now wouldn't that be a breath of fresh air!
This Week in the Watershed: Keystone Pollution, Environmental Literacy, and Blue Crabs
- Agencies throughout Pennsylvania's state government are exploring ways to accelerate pollution reduction efforts in the Keystone State. (Lancaster Farming—PA)
- The environmental literacy requirement in Maryland has been a huge success thus far. (What's Up Mag—MD)
- How will blue crabs respond to increasing water temperatures due to climate change? New research reveals intriguing findings. (Daily Press—VA)
- ICYMI, the American Farm Bureau Federation is continuing its fight against the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, filing for an extension of time to ask the Supreme Court to hear its appeal. (Bay Journal)
What's Happening Around the Watershed?
- Virginia Beach, VA: CBF is hosting the second annual "Living Waters: Wading In" Interfaith Summit. Join us for a day of music, prayer, inspiring speakers, and collaborative work sessions as we explore ways the faith community can celebrate, protect, and restore our rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay. Click here to learn more and register!
- Annapolis, MD: Want to help restore the Bay's oyster population? Become an oyster gardener! New oyster gardeners are required to attend an Oyster Gardening Workshop before beginning their first year of gardening, such as one in Annapolis October 9. Returning gardeners can register to pick up spat. Click here to learn more!
- Easton, MD: Want to help restore the Bay's oyster population? Become an oyster gardener! New oyster gardeners are required to attend an Oyster Gardening Workshop before beginning their first year of gardening, such as one in Easton October 10. Returning gardeners can register to pick up spat. Click here to learn more!
- St. Michaels, MD: Join us for a sail on CBF's historic skipjack, the Stanley Norman. While aboard, you'll be invited to help hoist the sails or simply enjoy the view! You will leave with a better understanding of oysters and their role in keeping the Bay clean as well as what CBF is doing to restore the Bay's oyster population. Click here to register!
- Baltimore, MD: CBF's oyster gardening program is expanding to Baltimore Harbor! We're looking for 50 new gardeners to care for two cages of oysters each over the winter and then "plant" them on a reef in the spring. This unusual hobby is fun, educational, and helps to clean the harbor waters. Register here!
- Annapolis, MD: The Annapolis VoiCeS Course, a six-week adult education class on Mondays, starts October 12! The course will cover regional environmental issues affecting Maryland and the Bay watershed. The program provides information on subjects affecting the health of our community's natural environment and how you can take action. In-depth sessions are taught by Bay experts from CBF and other regional institutions and organizations. Click here to register!
- Easton, MD: The Eastern Shore of Maryland VoiCeS Course, a six-week adult education class on Tuesdays, starts October 13! The course will cover regional environmental issues affecting Maryland and the Bay watershed. The program provides information on subjects affecting the health of our community's natural environment and how you can take action. In-depth sessions are taught by Bay experts from CBF and other regional institutions and organizations. Click here to register!
- Annapolis, MD: Current CBF oyster gardeners can pick up baby spat for the upcoming season. Register here!
- Baltimore, MD: Get your hands dirty planting trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses in a vacant lot in West Baltimore that CBF and a coalition of groups are restoring. Click here to register!
- Edgewater, MD: Another opportunity for current CBF oyster gardeners can pick up baby spat for the upcoming season. Register here!
—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate
The following first appeared in the Patriot News.
Crab cakes. Crab soup. Crab Imperial.
Encrusted with a favorite seasoning or lightly broiled as cakes, by the pound or by the bushel, we love our crab meat.
Blue crabs are one of the tastiest and more resilient species that come from the Chesapeake Bay and their fate is the hands of Pennsylvanians.
The good news is total numbers of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay are up slightly this year, after the 2012-2013 survey indicated a drastic loss down to 300 million.
The 2015 Chesapeake Bay winter crab dredge survey shows populations of juvenile and adult blue crabs have gone up to 411 million. Most notable is how adult females have clawed their way from 68 million to 100 million.
Blue crab populations fluctuate because of a witch's brew of factors like severe winters, the harvest, and pollution.
Chesapeake Bay watermen supply as much as one-third of the nation's blue crabs each year. About 75 percent of the Bay's adult blue crab stock is harvested. As for Mother Nature, there is little any of us can do to control the weather.
But pollution control is within our grasp. Driven by our commitment at CBF to improve water quality in Pennsylvania as well as the Bay, we cannot think of delicious crab meat without also thinking of crabgrass.
A dense lawn is one of the more effective barriers against what many Americans consider intrusive and offensive crabgrass.
Pennsylvania delivers half of the freshwater that flows into the Bay. It's easy to see how what we do in Pennsylvania, through agriculture and what we put onto our lawns, affects the health of the Bay and its blue crabs.
The presence of nitrogen and phosphorus in the Bay encourages the explosive growth of algae. Algal blooms darken the water and block light, killing underwater grasses that re-oxygenate the water and provide critical shelter for crabs.
"Dead zones" are formed when blooms fed by polluted runoff quickly die and decay, sucking up oxygen. In order to find oxygen, crabs move to shallow waters where they are caught more easily.
These "Dead zones" also destroy or inhibit the growth of clams and worms, an important food source for crabs.
The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is a plan that sets pollution limits for Pennsylvania and the Bay.
Pennsylvania has developed an individual plan to achieve those pollution reduction goals and committed to two-year milestones that outline the actions it will take to achieve success.
Achieving pollution reduction goals and improving water quality in Pennsylvania, with a sensitivity toward how we handle pollution, can ensure an ecosystem in the Bay that supports a healthy blue crab population.
—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director
This is the largest blue crab I have ever seen, caught about 10 years ago in the Anclote River in Tarpon Springs, FL. I spent a lot of time on the Bay as a youngster and a young man, until I relocated to Florida.
An excerpt from my poem "Pretty Work" encapsulates my love for the Bay:
The shellpiles tell a story,
of the many
who have experienced the glory,
of harvesting the bounty
of the Bay.
But the glory is diminished
some even think its finished.
Can the decline be reversed,
or will it continue to get worse?
Can man and nature somehow combine
to save the day?
—Dr. Bob Powell
Ensure that Bob and future generations can continue to enjoy the extraordinary critters found in the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint!
Do you have a favorite Bay photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!
The following op-ed appeared on Friday in the Washington Post.
It's clearly been a poor year for Chesapeake Bay blue crab harvests. Average catches just three years ago were as much as twice as what they are now.
That is where Angus Phillips ["It's now or never for blue crabs," Sunday Opinion, July 27] and I agree. Where we disagree is what to do about it. Phillips called for a moratorium on crabbing. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) does not. Like many, we believe in managing fisheries through science, not quick-fix schemes. As my eighth-grade history teacher used to say, "Beware of simple answers to complex problems."
While a moratorium may be tempting in its simplicity, the CBF and most scientists believe that limits on the harvesting of female crabs are biologically appropriate for such a resilient species (which is far different from the striped bass, for which the CBF was a moratorium advocate). This approach will also have the added benefit of maintaining jobs and avoiding the economic devastation to communities like Smith and Tangier islands.
Blue crab reproductive success from year to year depends on many factors. Weather is one. Last winter's cold weather killed an estimated 28 percent of the bay's crabs. Pollution also can cause habitat loss. Bay grasses — great places for young crabs to hide from predators — are currently at only 20 percent of historic levels. The bay's dead zones kill the creatures that crabs rely on for food.
We believe that only a comprehensive crab management plan that addresses pollution, habitat and harvest will provide for a long-term sustainable fishery.
While there is plenty of reason for concern, there is also a bright note this crabbing season: Early results from Maryland and Virginia show an encouraging number of young crabs.
Phillips rhetorically asked whether the CBF is aware of the situation. Of course we are. The CBF's scientists have been in communication with the Maryland, Potomac and Virginia regulatory agencies responsible for blue crab management. Our senior fisheries scientist also is a member of the Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team, which oversees blue crab management baywide.
Phillips said he could not find one word about the issue on our Web site. I invite him to look again. A search of our Web site turned up more than 1,400 mentions of crabs — their importance, value and plight. In May, we published "Blue News," a blog posted soon after the annual crab survey results raised concerns about the population. It can be found at www.cbf.org/bluenews.
Finally, Phillips stated that the CBF was raising money for a new wing at our Annapolis Environmental Center, the world's first LEED platinum building. We are not. He also called it a palace. That is an odd description for a building that dramatically cuts energy and water use, reduces human pollution through zero-discharge composting toilets and is built inside and out with sustainable materials.
—Will Baker, CBF President