Pennsylvania Legislature Shouldn't Gut Streamside Protections

The following first appeared in the Patriot News.

Portlock
Stream with strong forested buffers. Photo by Bill Portlock/CBF Staff.

We all count on clean water . . . But, with roughly 19,000 miles of polluted streams and rivers in our Commonwealth, too many of our waters are considered polluted. We all pay the price—lost jobs, human health risks, taxes, and fees to purify drinking water. And right now the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Gov. Corbett have a choice about protecting Pennsylvania's rivers and streams.

One of the most cost-efficient and well-established practices to clean up waterways and to keep them clean is to plant trees along stream banks—what some call forested buffers.

These buffers soak up water, reducing runoff and keeping any pollutants it carries from draining into streams. Their roots hold onto soil, keeping it from washing into and clouding the water. Their canopies lower water temperatures, improving wildlife habitat for fish like the brook trout, which is crucial in many local economies. And their green leaves convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, improving air quality and lowering our health risks from, for example, asthma. Trees are one of nature's best methods to stop pollution and maintain clean rivers and streams.

Pennsylvania has a Blueprint for clean water and as part of that Blueprint set a goal of planting 74,000 acres of forested buffers by 2013. Recently, our state reported that we have achieved only 17 percent of that goal. That leaves us a very long way to go before we realize the benefits of forested stream banks to our rivers and streams.

Why, then, would our elected officials even consider approving a bill that allows land developers to cut down existing streamside buffers along our last remaining pristine streams? It makes no sense at all and should not be done.

This week, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released a peer-reviewed report detailing the economic benefits of cleaning up local rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Public News Service featured that report: Putting a Price Tag on the Value of Clean Water to Pennsylvania (October 7, 2014). They said, "A new analysis of the potential financial benefits of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint finds a measurable return, with cleaner water adding about $6 billion a year in value to Pennsylvania's economy."

Pennsylvanian's own Thomas Hylton, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of the book "Save Our Land, Save Our Towns," was quoted in that article saying, "How much is something costing you, and how much benefit are you getting back? [CBF's] analysis indicates it's way less expensive to pay attention to Mother Nature and protect the environment, economically, than it is to let it go."

We need to protect our clean streams, as well as restore our polluted ones. It makes sense environmentally as well as, economically. We call on the General Assembly and Gov. Corbett to prevent this bad bill for Pennsylvanians from becoming law. Our waters will be cleaner and our legacy brighter if they do.

—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director

Tell your PA senator to vote "NO" on the devastating House Bill 1565! It will gut clean water protections across our state! 


Angler Clean Water Story: A Tale of Three Coves

Chain pickerelI fish in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries several days a week year round. Much of my fishing is done from a kayak, which allows me to get into very shallow water and to sneak up on fish. I see compelling differences in catch success depending on the water quality and clarity of the water bodies where I fish. Here is an example.

This morning I had planned to fish from my small center console near the Bay Bridge. The wind built up overnight and cancelled that plan. My alternate plan was to find some sheltered coves off of the tidal Severn River where I could fish from my kayak. I fished in three separate coves that had very calm conditions.

In the first cove, I had about the best visibility I can remember for September in this area (~4 ft). In less than 45 minutes, I hooked three chain pickerel, which are not common catches in the tidal Severn until winter months. The pickerel were healthy specimens from three separate age classes, suggesting that this local population was reproducing. The first was a young pickerel of ~6-7". The second was about 17-18". The third was a strong fish of 21-22" that pulled the kayak around for a minute or so before running out of steam. All three pickerel were quickly returned to the water.

In the second cove, the water clarity was good, but not as spectacular as in the first cove. I was able to observe a pickerel follow my lure up to the boat and remain a few inches behind the lure for more than 5 seconds trying to figure out whether to bite or not.

In the third cove, the water clarity was somewhat muddy. The fish were not biting well there either.

I wish all the tributaries in the Severn were as clear as I found in the first cove. Imagine how good the fishing would be if that were the case.

—John Veil, Annapolis, MD

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Rockfish: Down But Not Out


Rockfish for blogThe number of adult rockfish (striped bass) has been declining for 10 years and is about to drop below the level that means it is officially "overfished." This is the primary finding of the latest scientific analysis of the striped bass "stock," which includes fish spawned in the Hudson and Delaware Rivers as well as the Chesapeake. In fact, Chesapeake-born rockfish migrate all the way to Maine and make up about 75 percent of the total catch.

Recreational and commercial fishermen pursue striped bass from Maine to North Carolina, making it one of the most sought-after fish along the coast. However catches have been declining steadily in recent years. These states are currently working together under the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to craft a response to the situation that will maintain the stock at a level that will support these valuable fisheries.

But the Bay's rockfish population is far from collapsing. A few things to keep in mind: 

    1. First, while the amount of spawning-age female rockfish (the "spawning stock") is dropping into the overfished range, this does not mean we face reproductive failure. The spawning stock threshold is set conservatively at the level it was in 1995 when the stock was declared recovered from the severe decline of the 1970s and 80s. Scientists knew that this was a level from which the stock could recover, because it did so very well. (In fact, we set a record for reproduction in 1993, and then we shattered that record in 1996.) A favorable spawning pattern continued in the Bay through 2003 and then dropped off until 2011. This period of lower reproduction is the main reason for the stock decline.

    2. Second, in 2011 Chesapeake rockfish had an excellent spawn producing the fourth highest number of juveniles on record. This very strong "year class" will mature in the next few years and join the spawning stock, helping turn the trajectory back upward

How much and how soon we need to conserve striped bass in the short term to boost this recovery is the question currently before the ASMFC. The Commission is deliberating the nature of the fishing restrictions that will be required under an updated fishery management plan for striped bass.

A draft striped bass management plan that includes a number of options for cutting back the catch is available for public comment through September. The goal is to reduce the amount of fishing to the level that will bring the population up to a healthier, more stable state over time (AKA the target level). The main decision among the options presented is whether to do it in one year, which would require a 25 percent cutback, or spread it across three years at a rate of 17 percent. We at CBF believe that the three-year phase-in at 17 percent is an appropriate management measure. It provides the same level of conservation after three years without inordinate socio-economic impacts. Click here for more information and to submit your own comments about this important issue.

Perhaps more critical for Chesapeake Bay is the quality of the habitat the Bay provides for rockfish during their first four to six years when they are year-round residents in the Bay before joining the annual coastal migration. Exposure to low dissolved oxygen, high summer water temperatures, diminished grass beds and oyster reefs, and lack of sufficient food, especially their favorite forage fish, Atlantic menhaden, has taken a toll on these fish. In fact, scientists have documented widespread occurrence of a serious disease called mycobacteriosisamong resident stripers that likely results from poor water quality and nutrition. And fishery managers now assume a higher mortality rate for those fish in their population modeling—in effect we are having to adjust to a degraded Bay.

Therefore, implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, restoring habitat, and conserving forage fish are essential to maintaining healthy populations of rockfish and all the other Bay fish and shellfish we value.

—Bill Goldsborough, CBF’s Director of Fisheries

Click here for a list of scheduled public hearings on striped bass management. 

Help us get the word out about the state of the rockfish by sharing the above infographic with your friends and family! 

Click here to share on Facebook!

Share on Twitter


Angler Clean Water Story: Simply Put

BrandonWhite_LatearlLine_StripedBass_flyrod
Simply put, the single most important variable in my mind to having a healthy fishery not only in my home waters of the Choptank River, but the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed, is having clean water. I have been fishing and living on the Chesapeake since I was a little boy. Over the years I have seen how grasses have decreased as a result of polluted water and other various pollutants.

It wasn't too long ago I was able to fish the shallows of the Choptank River and consistently catch white perch, striped bass, and other finned animals. While I am still able to catch some fish, the Choptank is now the second most polluted river in Maryland and as a result, the fishing does not even compare to when I was a kid. While making sure we have sustainable fishing regulations for both commercial and recreational anglers is important, in my mind the single most important variable neccesary for a healthy ecosystem is clean, unpolluted water.

Brandon White, Easton, MD

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Angler Clean Water Story: Where Have All the Stripers Gone

StripedBass-rockfish-closeup-BlairSeltzCBFStaff_458x232
Photo by Blair M. Seltz.

The impact of pollution on the Chesapeake [and its] fish is very significant. Pollution in the form of too many nutrients causes low oxygen levels during the warmer months and this causes the stripers to move around quite a bit. The areas where they can find tolerable oxygen levels seem to be shrinking each year which makes the Bay less habitable. Traditional locations where stripers have been caught for years are no longer productive.

You can have wonderful structure with loads of baitfish on it but no stripers because there is not enough oxygen in the water to support them. Finding fish consistently in the warm months has become much more challenging because they are moving all the time and one cannot see nor determine oxygen levels without expensive test equipment. An area may look good and have lots of bait but there is no way to tell if the oxygen levels will support the [top] predators.

Capt. Richie Gaines, Queenstown, MD
Capt. Richie Gaines has been guiding anglers in the region for more than 20 years and has earned a reputation as one of the top light tackle guides on the Bay. Richie is a "guerilla" guide and fishes the entire Bay, moving with the fish to follow the best bite. Fishing the Bay year-round from the Susquehanna Flats to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel has provided a great deal of experience and taught Richie how to be versatile in applying techniques and locating the fish.

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Angler Clean Water Story: Clean Water Laws Need to Have Teeth

 

Neo_003580-01_PA_brook-trout_NeilEverOsborneiLCP_695x352
Photo © Neil Ever Osborne

I am a brook trout enthusiast. The fish is arguably one of the most striking freshwater fish to be found. Brookies need clean, cool water to survive. Loss of forests and runoff that carries sediment into streams are major threats to brook trout. I've watched the stream behind my house decline over the past 20 years, due mostly to development and farming along small feeder streams. The trout are fewer in number and smaller. If the declines of the past 20 years occur for another 20, I wonder whether brookies will even live there anymore. The laws protecting streams should have teeth.

Dave Wise, Lititz, PA

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Angler Clean Water Story: No Brainer

19052267_25244661_Banditby_Lynda_RichardsonClean water is a no brainer when it comes to anything in life, including the ability to sustain life. Fishing or not, clean water is essential for everyone and everything . . . striped bass, bald eagles, osprey, otters, mayflies, and crayfish, just to name a few.

For those making a living on the water, clean water will ensure these professionals will be able to continue developing and producing recreational and educational programs for the public, who may be interested in buying fresh local fish, hiring fishing and ecotour guides, and traveling on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Yeah, the need for clean water is a no brainer.

Capt. Mike Ostrander, Richmond, Virginia 

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Angler Clean Water Story: A Sorry Situation

George M - HeadshotIt really bugs me that the fish I catch from the Chesapeake are "toxic fish." Chesapeake rockfish and white perch are some of the best tasting fish to be found anywhere. Yet I am afraid to eat them! The Bay is so polluted that these fish have been declared unhealthy to eat because of the toxic chemicals contained in their flesh, such as mercury and PCBs. What a sorry situation . . . This has to change!

—George Maurer, Annapolis, MD

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Angler Clean Water Story: Fishing for Happy Fish

Schlyer-cbr-fishermen-on-river_695x278
Photo by Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

I like to fish for "happy" fish. In the fall when the water is clear there are some areas in the Bay where you can see the bottom in ten feet of water. You can see fish on structure and they are obviously feeling frisky and "happy." In this type of environment they take your lure or fly with enthusiasm, they are simply "happy." If you release them they quickly scoot back to their temporary homes no worse for the experience.

However in the warmer months of the summer. You can see fish on your sonar huddled in the top five to fifteen feet water in holes more than 30 feet deep. They are there because it's the only depth where the dissolved oxygen is sufficient for them to survive. All depths below that are essentially "dead zones" due to nitrogen pollution. Even when fish are in the upper tier of the water column, it is obvious that they are stressed out by how slow they move and respond to various fishing tactics.

Fishing in or around polluted water is not a good experience in terms of visual enjoyment or quality of results. Wether you take out a new angler or someone who fishes a lot, they enjoy the "happy" fish experience much more than the stressed fish experience.

Ed Liccione, Queenstown, MD

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Angler Clean Water Story: Clean Water Is Simply a Must

6 Sunset Fishing
Sunset Fishing on the Rappahannock River. Photo courtesy of CBF.

 

I began fishing as a young boy in the ponds and creeks around my home for mainly bluegill or more often whatever would bite. Those early years instilled a love of the sport that I still have today.

I now do most of my fishing in the Bay and for different species. I have found that the health of the Bay and more specifically clean water has a tremendous impact on my success. I prefer low light, early and late, shallow water fishing for rockfish and trout. Recently with water clarity being impaired this method has become more and more challenging. Clean water is simply a must for increased and consistent catches from day to day. I seek out the water that appears to be the cleanest and clearest to fish and often it works for me.

A cleaner Bay would provide all of us and those to come, better fishing opportunities and hopefully create sportsmen and women for years to come.

Bart, Crofton, MD

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!