Chesapeake Bay Collaborative | WYPR

Chesapeake Bay Collaborative

The Chesapeake Bay is America’s largest estuary, with a watershed that spans 64,000 square miles, touching on six states. It’s an economic engine to two of those states, a source of food for many and close to the hearts of millions.Five public radio organizations—WYPR in Baltimore, Virginia Public Radio, Delmarva Public Radio at Salisbury University, Delaware Public Media and WESM at The University of Maryland Eastern Shore are collaborating to produce reports examining a broad spectrum of issues affecting the Bay and its watershed. 

Chesapeake: A Journalism Collaborative is funded with grant support from the Clayton Baker Trust, The Bancroft Foundation, Michael and Ann Hankin, The Jim and Patty Rouse Foundation, The Rob and Elizabeth Tyler Foundation, and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation.

Pamela D'Angelo

For as long as there’s been a Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel at the mouth of the bay, there’s been a gift shop and restaurant perched on an island in the middle of it all. But now that Virginia has broken ground to add a parallel tunnel, the restaurant is about to become history.

Bay's osprey population in decline--again

Sep 6, 2017
Reese Lukei

Osprey, like bald eagles, are a comeback story.

Their eggs were destroyed by the pesticide DDT, until it was banned in 1972, when there were only about 1,400 breeding pairs of osprey around the bay. By the late 1970s scientists began seeing osprey in southeastern Virginia, according to Reese Lukei, who monitors osprey nests in that region, along with Chrystal Matthews for the William and Mary Center for Conservation and Biology and the Virginia Aquarium.

Tourists visiting the Chesapeake Bay region have plenty of options: boating, fishing, dining and more.

But one particular type of tourism that has grown over the last five years gets those visitors thinking about the natural environment around them: Ecotourism.


Joel McCord

A group of anthropology majors from Washington College in Chestertown has spent the summer not at the beach, but as research assistants roaming the Eastern Shore, talking to residents about the risks of flooding and projected sea level rise. They’ve traveled through Talbot, Dorchester and Somerset counties talking to local residents about their communities, changes and their experiences with flooding.

And on a recent trip, Kirsten Webb and Hayley Hartman were visiting Roland and Sheilah Bradshaw at their home on Smith Island. Kirsten was hardly into her opening spiel about community response to flooding when Roland jumped in.

Chris Moe / UMCES

Dr. Helen Bailey, who did her PhD work on bottle nose dolphins, says she heard reports of occasional sightings of the marine mammals when she came to work as an associate professor at the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science in Solomons.

But then the underwater microphones the lab was experimenting with began picking up the tell-tale squeaks and clicks of dolphins foraging in the Chesapeake and its tributaries. Now, the scientists are finding out the dolphins are pretty regular visitors to the bay.

"We were discovering that we were actually detecting dolphins quite frequently during June, July and August," she said. "And so then put another hydrophone in the Potomac River and there we were detecting dolphins every day."

New rules threaten growing blue cat industry

Jul 19, 2017
Pamela D'Angelo

In recent years, Chesapeake watermen and seafood processors have begun developing a market for blue catfish, that invasive species that has exploded in regional waters vacuuming up baby blue crabs, shad, striped bass and other economically important fish.

But new USDA inspection rules that hold foreign imports to U.S. standards could threaten that growing market. And you can blame it all on Mississippi Congressman Thad Cochran, who was trying to protect local catfish farmers who were feeling the pressure of Asian imports.


A bipartisan plea for bay funds

Jun 29, 2017

  

A bipartisan array of state officials went to bat for the Chesapeake Bay yesterday, lobbying their Congressional representatives to restore $73 million in bay restoration funds that was chopped out of the 2018 federal budget.

Rachel Baye

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget eliminates all of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s $73 million and reduces or eliminates several other funds used to clean up the Bay and its watershed.

On Thursday, leaders from the six states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed — who together form the Chesapeake Executive Council — signed a resolution calling on Trump and Congress to replace that money in the budget and urging federal agencies to remain active participants in Bay restoration efforts.

Trump budget eliminates oyster restoration funds

Jun 5, 2017
Pamela D'Angelo

 

In 2009, President Obama signed an executive order recognizing the Chesapeake Bay as a national treasure. That began a federal-state partnership to restore and protect it, including a plan to revive the wild oyster population through sanctuaries on restored reefs in Maryland and Virginia.

But the budget President Trump sent to Congress eliminates funding for that plan. And that has complicated even further an already complicated effort to restore the reefs gutted by a century of overfishing, disease and pollution. 

Katie Peikes/Delaware Public Media

Coastal states throughout the nation have come to depend on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant programs for research and education on issues ranging from storm damage, erosion and sea level rise to aquaculture.

But those 33 university based programs face an uncertain future under President Trump’s budget proposal, which would cut the entire sea grant program.

Pamela D'Angelo

The Chesapeake Bay's crab, oyster and bait industry has been losing its American workforce since the late 1980s, as the old hands retire and younger workers seek better paying jobs.

The packing houses turned to foreign, seasonal workers to fill the gaps, but the visa program Congress established for that, dubbed H2B, quickly reaches the 66,000 worker cap. And that’s forcing some seafood processing plants to shut down.

Brendan Reynolds

Chesapeake Bay advocates got a shock when President Donald Trump proposed zeroing EPA’s Chesapeake Bay program out of the federal budget.

Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, said efforts to restore the oyster population, are "very heavily dependent on the continued federal investment."

And Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the loss of those funds would hurt economically when it comes to the burgeoning oyster industry in Maryland and Virginia. It wouldn’t be just the watermen who harvest those oysters who would take a hit, but also the "shuckers, wholesalers, retailers, those who move the material, restauranteurs," he said.

Don Shomette

Commercial watermen who fish the Potomac River were shocked and angry last week when the Maryland-Virginia authority that regulates them did nothing about federal plans for a marine sanctuary at Mallows Bay.

The Potomac River Fisheries Commission could not agree on limits to the sanctuary, which watermen fear could extend to where they set nets for blue catfish, tong for oysters and trap crabs.

USDA

The Delmarva Peninsula lies under the Atlantic Migratory flyway, a path waterfowl migrate through. As Europe deals with recent outbreaks of a severe strain of Avian Influenza, some local poultry growers worry that just one infected bird passing through the region could contaminate and kill whole flocks of chickens.

Joel McCord

Crisfield, on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore, is probably best known for the annual J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake, a political schmooze fest of legendary proportions. But the town soon will have another claim to fame. It’s about to be the first municipality in the Delmarva region powered by a windmill.

A ship that sailed to the beaches of Iwo Jima during World War II and rescued seven people during one of the world’s largest-ever recorded storms will soon sit at the bottom of the Atlantic, a couple dozen miles off the coast of Delaware and Maryland. 

 


 

Searching for ghost pots in the Chesapeake

Jan 6, 2017
Pamela D'Angelo

Every year, Chesapeake Bay watermen toss about 600,000 pots overboard to catch one of our favorite delicacies – the blue crab. But inevitably, some of those crab pots disappear. They become "ghost pots," killing millions of crabs and other marine species trapped inside.

It’s estimated there are about 145,000 ghost pots bay-wide. Some 58,000 are lost in Maryland and 87,000 in Virginia. Laid end to end, they'd stretch 53 miles. That’s from Havre de Grace to Tilghman Island in Maryland or from the mouth of the Potomac River to the mouth of the Bay in Virginia.

Joel McCord

A recent study from EPA’s Chesapeake Bay program has confirmed that the water quality in the nation’s largest estuary is improving, thanks to a pollution diet for states in the Bay’s watershed.

But there’s one part of one state—the five counties of South Central Pennsylvania—that lags behind in reaching its pollution reduction goals, mostly because of fertilizer that runs off farm fields into Bay tributaries.

Tracking raptors on the coast

Nov 22, 2016
US Fish and Wildlife Service

Every fall, ospreys, falcons, eagles, hawks and other raptors migrate through the Chesapeake Bay region on their way to warmer places. And as they do, groups of volunteers keep track of them as part of the Hawk Watch initiative - an international effort to study raptors during their migratory period.

CNN

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could not disagree more on climate change. Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, sees it as a real threat while Trump, the Republican, dismisses it as a hoax.

And because climate change can lead to rising sea level, among other things, their views on the subject are important to those who live and work on the Chesapeake Bay.

John Lee

Oysters are nature’s filtration machines, and there used to be enough of them in the Chesapeake Bay to filter and clean all that water in three days. Now, there are so few oysters it takes more than a year.

So, environmentalists are trying to rebuild the population by growing oysters. And one of the so-called oyster gardens is in an unlikely place-- Baltimore’s polluted inner harbor. It’s part of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Baltimore Initiative.

Without the she crab, there'd be no he crab

Oct 3, 2016
Pamela D'Angelo

The Atlantic blue crab, Chesapeake Bay’s signature crustacean, has been through tough times in the last 20 years. Some recent improvement has been credited to restrictions on harvesting females. Yet Virginia still allows the harvest of egg-bearing females, something Maryland banned back in 1917. The reasons why seem to be wrapped up in economics.

Joel McCord

A few years ago, scientists began worrying that blue catfish, the much larger cousins of those squirmy, yellowish bottom feeders, might take over in Chesapeake Bay. They’re big—better than 100 pounds in some cases--voracious eaters and they’re prolific. So, at least one seafood wholesaler appropriated a slogan applied to other invasive fish--eat ‘em to beat ‘em—and began aggressively marketing them. And local watermen have found a new market and seemingly endless supply. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture via Creative Commons

  Environmentalists saw a victory last week when congress allocated close to 11 million dollars of the 2016-spending bill for land conservation along the rivers of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

For the past four years environmentalists from the region have been urging Congress to permanently protect close to 15,000 acres of land in the watershed.

Joel Dunn, the President and CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy based in Annapolis says 35 nonprofits, four Indian tribes, five governors, nine U.S. Senators and 17 members of the house, put together a large proposal to protect vital areas along the rivers of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and the Captain John Smith trail.


Delaware Lags in Chesapeake Clean-up

Nov 17, 2015

The states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have been working to drastically reduce the amount of pollutants and sediment they put into bay waterways by 2025. But some are moving more quickly than others. According to a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency, Delaware is far off track to meet its halfway milestones in 2017 and at least part of the reason is the lack of money. 

The Delmarva Fox Squirrel Out Of Danger, Sort Of

Nov 17, 2015

The Eastern Shore’s Delmarva Fox Squirrel showed up on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s first-ever endangered species list back in 1967, along with the bald eagle and the Florida manatee. The eagle came off that list in 2007, the service has been talking about removing the manatee for two years, and Friday the service officially removed the squirrel from its federally protected designation. 

Using Science And Sandy Money To Save Wildlife Refuges

Oct 30, 2015

  Some of the Chesapeake Bay’s pristine wildlife refuges are drowning, casualties of erosion and the rising waters caused by climate change. So, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is moving to save to of Maryland’s prized refuges with money allocated for recovery from superstorm Sandy and new science techniques.