I’m spending the holidays in Lancaster County, PA – America’s first inland city. That’s Long’s Park on the left. These are my old stomping grounds- about 100 miles from the nearest deep-sea habitat off the coast of New Jersey. You feel the connection to the oceans, though, as you drive through picturesque farm fields along the meandering Conestoga and Susquehanna Rivers. We’re in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Both of these rivers are tributaries.
The Chesapeake Bay is also quite far from the shelf break, I know, but those swamps and coasts are my old stomping grounds, too. I spent part of my boyhood in Hampton, VA. I caught my first fishes there- a long green eel and a horrendously ugly brown toadfish. I fished for crabs with chicken on a string. We sailed some Sundays from the Yacht Club, and this is the source of my earliest fascinations with the sea. Afterwards, I’d spend hours on the docks looking for critters.
I’m remembering all this because the Washington Post reports that scientists traced the root causes of the blue crab decline in the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation/Save the Bay released a new report “Bad Water and the Decline of Blue Crabs in the Chesapeake Bay” that implicates both pollution and overfishing in their decades-long demise. Most notably, the report establishes a direct link between riverine pollution, estuarine habitat loss, and increased predation on juvenile crabs. – PJE
Nitrogen and phosphorous pollution are causing algal blooms that kill underwater grasses needed for crabs to hide from predators. More than half of the bay’s eelgrass has died since the 1970s.
Photo courtesy of Makz at Flickr.