Except for a troubling decline in underwater grasses that help filter pollution and sustain marine life, many of the bay’s health indicators remained the same or improved since they were examined two years ago, according to the 2012 State of the Bay report released Wednesday by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation….
The Chesapeake is the nation’s largest estuary, a 200-mile-long mix of fresh and salt water that supports more than 3,500 plant and animal species. Thirty-two is the highest grade the foundation has dished out since it was founded in the late 1960s. The lowest, 23, was issued in the early 1980s….
The report follows upbeat announcements from Virginia and Maryland that the oyster population, decimated by disease, is showing signs of a rebound. Virginia watermen harvested only 79,600 bushels of oysters in 2005 but hauled in more than 236,000 bushels in 2011. Maryland’s crop jumped from 26,400 to more than 121,000.
Blue crabs were even more robust, as the number of juvenile crabs in both states shot up from 207 million in the winter dredge survey of 2011 to more than 600 million last year. The growth followed the closing five years ago of the winter dredge fishery, in which watermen harvested mostly pregnant females with a steel dragnet, killing as many as they caught. The overall crab population grew from 250 million when dredge fishing was closed to more than 750 million last year.
A 2011 study by Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science found that cleanup efforts have reduced oxygen-deprived events in the bay known as dead zones. Last year’s dead zone plague, which basically kills fish, oysters and crabs almost on contact, was the second-smallest since 1985.
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