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Environmental Success in the Chesapeake Bay

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Meryl Ann Butler       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment, 2 series

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Chesapeake Bay Foundation volunteers welcome the return of the oysters with a flotilla
(Image by CBF Press release)
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On Monday, Norfolk's Lafayette River was declared the state's first waterway in the Chesapeake Bay area to reach oyster habitat restoration goals. It was the culmination of community-supported restoration efforts to reduce pollution and restore wildlife that began in the 1990s. Oysters serve as natural filters that clean water, protect shorelines from erosion, and create habitat for fish, crabs, and other aquatic life. Healthy oyster reefs have played a key role in the tributary's revitalization.

Approximately 200 miles long, the Chesapeake Bay is an estuary located between Maryland and Virginia. More than 150 major rivers and streams flow into the Bay's 64,299-square-mile drainage basin, which covers Washington DC and portions of six states, including Maryland, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia.

The 2014 Chesapeake Bay Agreement set a goal of restoring oysters in ten Chesapeake Bay waterways by 2025. Marjorie Mayfield Jackson, Executive Director of the Elizabeth River Project (ERP) said, "It's unbelievable that a part of the Elizabeth River, once presumed dead, now leads Virginia for restoration of the native oyster."

"Chesapeake" comes from the Algonquian, "Chesepiooc." First used as "Chesepiook" by explorers from the Roanoke Colony in about 1585, it is the seventh oldest surviving English place-name in the U.S. The Chesapeake tribe occupied the areas of Norfolk and Virginia Beach near the Lafayette River, so it was fitting that Virginia's first waterway to reach oyster habitat restoration goals was declared on Indigenous Peoples Day. (Indigenous Peoples Day replaces Columbus Day in several states; MN, AK, VT, and OR , along with dozens of other cities around the US. The update was made in honor of First Americans who were on the continent long before Columbus, and who suffered deeply as a result of his "discovery.")

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As part of the celebration, project partners led by Elizabeth River Project (ERP) and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), as well as residents and other officials, formed a flotilla of boats, kayaks, and paddleboards to plant the final oysters on restored reefs just off the Hermitage Museum and Gardens in Norfolk, VA.

According to the CBF, "Regular surveys of Lafayette reefs show they are thriving, reaching levels well above the density goal of 50 oysters per square meter. Biological sampling has discovered that these reefs are home to at least 25 different species of fish, including seahorses, red drum, striped bass, and speckled trout. Surveys and monitoring the health of Lafayette River oyster reefs will continue in the years to come. Lessons learned here will help inform work on other Virginia tributaries targeted for oyster restoration."

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About the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has improved the Bay's overall health since its low in 1983, reversing more than 300 years of decline. Their 2012 State of the Bay report showed the Bay's health improved by 14 percent since 2008.

CBF's Clagett Farm is designed to be a model for how to use truly sustainable farming methods. In addition to teaching students and fellow farmers there, CBF operates a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

CBF's Litigation Department uses carefully chosen legal action to advance the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay, its rivers, lakes, and streams. As a result, there is an historic and legally binding agreement and plan to remove the Bay from the federal "impaired waters" list. This groundbreaking plan is called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, and it's the first of its kind.

CBF offers award-winning educational programs to more than 25,000 students each year. To date, more than 1.5 million students of all ages have been through one of CBF's 15 study centers.

CBF has also restored more than 9,000 acres of wetlands and nearly 30,000 acres of forested riparian buffer on agricultural lands in Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania by planting more than 3.3 million trees.

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CBF was founded in 1967.


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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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1 people are discussing this page, with 1 comments  Post Comment

Hosea McAdoo

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I used to raise oysters in an "oyster garden" when I lived on the Bay edge, about fifteen years ago. I bought spats the size of an eraser and grew them to eating size in floating cages. They did OK for two years after which they died from an infestation of two parasites, MSX, and Dermo that thrive because of low oyster population density, pollution and are affected by temperature and salinity. They are harmless to humans but limit the natural oyster population which grows more slowly than "farmed" oysters that, while small, can reach harvest size in two years.

Wild oysters often die in the Bay before reaching maturity. Overharvesting and pollution make Bay oysters essentially non-harvestable. The state laws were weak for the oysters. The Virginia Marine Sciences people tried to put oyster shells in marked spots and stocked them with spats. As soon as they matured the oystermen demanded that they harvest them rather than using them as nurseries and Virginia allowed this disaster. When I left, commercial oystering was just about over. The annual Oyster Festival in Urbana, on the Rappahannock, which was the home of oystering in the Bay, had to import oysters from Delaware Bay.

In colonial times oysters were so plentiful that ships grounded on oyster reefs and some oysters were large enough for one to feed one or more people. Shells from harvested oysters have been thrown away or used for roads. These shells are required for the larva to hide from fish while in the wild and the shells give an attachment site as the Bay has a sandy, weed and mud bottom. Oyster management could not have been worse for most of the last century.

Changes have been made, but pollution remains and overfishing likely will commence as soon as some beds reappear. Crabs, long a Bay staple, has suffered a similar fate because of overfishing, pollution and weak laws that allowed taking "sponge" crabs (females with eggs from which the famous she-crab soup comes). Laws also allowed winter harvesting of dormant crabs living in the old Susquehanna river channel. not only did this take or kill everything, but the machine used to harvest tears up the bottom grass necessary for the young crabs. Strangely Maryland laws did not allow this and did not allow female crabs to be taken. Grass destruction hurts the fish population as well, as weeds are cover.

Rockfish were almost gone until a moratorium for a few years that produced a rebound. When I was a kid we got huge male crabs, many over six inches, in numbers using only a line, bait and a net. Crab pots now get small crabs in numbers. Lost pots allow crabs into the pots and are cannibalized. The lost pot becomes a perpetual killing machine as long as the pot lasts.

it has been a while since I was on the bay and I'm very glad to hear of the success on the Lafayette River and hope this new attitude involves fixing the whole Bay. The Chesapeake is a wondrous place and it was sad to see what was happening when I left. your article gives me hope that laws have been improved and that science now leads the recovery.

Thank you.

Submitted on Friday, Oct 12, 2018 at 9:16:28 PM

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