The effort to better track movement of dolphins through the bay and its tributaries began last June, and since then, over 900 sightings have been reported.
“We were only expecting maybe 25 to 30 [dolphin sightings] a year,” said Helen Bailey, a research professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “We had over 900 reported last year, and we were able to verify nearly 450 of those.”
To report a dolphin sighting, go to the Dolphin Watch website.
Scientists say dolphins used to visit the bay more frequently. Published reports of sightings date back into the 1800s. But as pollution degraded the Chesapeake’s water quality through the 20th century, they became more rare.
Researchers are exploring whether more dolphins are swimming up the bay, possibly invited by clearer waters, abundant submerged grasses and rebounding fisheries. Through a website they set up to collect sighting reports — and a smartphone app that will launch soon — the researchers are learning that the beloved creatures venture miles upstream in rivers such as the York and Potomac, and as far north as Annapolis and the Bay Bridge.
“It’s very likely they’re following fish into the bay. Hopefully, that’s a good sign,” Bailey said. “It doesn’t look like it’s just amusement from the coast into the bay.”
David Malmquist, VIMS – A northern snakehead—the non-native fish whose 2004 appearance along the Potomac River watershed unleashed a wave of public concern—has for the first time been found within the James River drainage in Virginia. The James is Virginia’s largest Chesapeake Bay tributary.
The fish was collected on April 27 from Lakeview Reservoir near Petersburg by biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. It has now been deposited in the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Nunnally Ichthyology Collection, where it joins two other snakehead specimens.
“We now have three wild-caught specimens of Channa argus in the collection,” says Curatorial Associate Dr. Sarah Huber, “the one we just got from the James River drainage, one from the Potomac River drainage where the fish made its first Virginia appearance, and another from Chesapeake Bay near the mouth of the Little Wicomico River.”
The species is now established throughout the lower Potomac River watershed, and has been observed in the lower reaches of several other Maryland rivers as well as the lower stretches of the Susquehanna and Delaware rivers.
VIMS Associate Professor Eric Hilton, Curator of Fishes for the Nunnally Ichthyology Collection, says it’s likely that snakeheads could spread within the James River watershed once introduced. “Lakeview Reservoir is on Swift Creek, a tributary of the Appomattox. It can easily spread from there to at least the freshwater portions of the James River itself,” says Hilton.
A broader expansion is less probable, but not impossible. “Snakeheads are restricted to some degree by not being able to live in full strength sea water — or even the mainstem of the Bay,” says Hilton. “But it’s possible they can get from the mouth of one tributary to another along the Bay shoreline.” [Read more…]
Living and working between two waters, ways to limit run-off is always a top priority. AI-powered weed hunters could soon reduce the need for herbicides and genetically modified crops.
NOAA Fisheries has released the 2017 Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries managed under the science-based framework established by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).
At the end of 2017, the overfishing list included 30 stocks and the overfished list included 35 stocks. Overfishing remains near all-time lows and we reached a new milestone with the number of overfished stocks at the lowest level ever—just 15 percent of assessed stocks. The number of stocks rebuilt since 2000 increased to 44. NOAA Fisheries tracks 474 stocks or stock complexes in 46 fishery management plans. Each year, assessments of various fish stocks and stock complexes are conducted to determine their status. These assessments include stocks of both known status and previously unknown status. Based on assessments conducted by the end of 2017, six stocks were removed from the overfishing list and six were added. The additions are the result of stock assessments or data showing catch was too high, including international harvest on certain stocks that the United States has limited ability to control. Six stocks were removed from the overfished list and three were added based on stock assessments that indicated population sizes were too low. As required by the MSA management framework, the councils are developing management measures to end overfishing and rebuild all stocks added to the overfishing and overfished lists.
Specific changes to the status of stocks in 2017 include:
Benefits of Sustainable Fisheries Management
Sustainable fisheries management is an adaptive process that relies on sound science, innovative management approaches, effective enforcement, meaningful partnerships, and robust public participation. Sustainable fisheries play an important role in the nation’s economy by providing opportunities for commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishing, marine aquaculture, and sustainable seafood for the nation. Combined, U.S. commercial and recreational saltwater fishing generated more than $208 billion in sales and supported 1.6 million jobs in 2015. By ending overfishing and rebuilding stocks, we are strengthening the value of U.S. fisheries to the economy, our communities, and marine ecosystems.
According to a new report by the environmental group Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, renewable energy won’t be able to make up for the loss of carbon-free electricity resulting from a wave of nuclear-power plant closures in the coming decades.
This group’s report, which also includes policy proposals, represents a growing urgency among some environmentalists that carbon-free nuclear power should be part of the equation addressing climate change; how to address concerns, such as what to do with radioactive waste is part of the equation.
The report notes that nuclear reactors that have already shut down are being replaced mostly by natural gas, “sending U.S. emissions in the wrong direction.” Noting that any federal policy driving nuclear power is unlikely in the near term, the report says action by states and corporations will be key. Some states are already taking action, and New York’s electric-grid operator floated a proposal last week about how it could put a price on carbon emissions within its system, which would help nuclear plants. Nuclear energy’s carbon-free attribute may not be attractive enough for cities and companies without coming up with a federal answer to store spent fuel: “solving the long-term waste challenge will likely be important to win support for nuclear power from cities and businesses,” the report states.
Nuclear power provides 20% of America’s electricity, though more than 50% of its carbon-free power.
Global average temperatures have risen about 1.1 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times. At current rates, they could exceed 1.5 degrees by 2030. And global greenhouse gas emissions, after a brief lull from 2014 to 2016, are rising again.
Even if countries can live up to their pledges in the Paris climate agreement, we’ll hit the year 2100 somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 degrees. New LSE research reveals all countries signed up to the Paris Agreement now have at least one national law or policy on climate change, but in most cases it is very little.
While as of 2015, renewable energy provided 19.3 percent of final global energy consumption. Excluding traditional biomass (burning wood for heat and cooking), it was 10.2 percent. Without hydro, that was 6.6 percent. Wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass electricity together accounted for 1.6 percent.
Clearly, demand is still outstripping production.
A report from several international agencies, including International Energy Agency (IEA), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) shows that possibility of cutting global greenhouse gas emissions in the years and decades ahead is bleak.
Despite big gains in renewables deployment and cost reductions, and the expansion of carbon pricing, curbing CO2 is not happening nearly fast enough to prevent highly dangerous levels of warming. Emissions risen slightly last year after a 3-year plateau.
Another analysis in the journal Nature finds that “the world is on track for more than 3 °C of warming by the end of the century…Renewable energy is indeed undergoing a revolution, as prices for things such as solar panels, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries continue to plummet. And yet it is also true that the world remains dependent on fossil fuels — so much so that even small economic shifts can quickly overwhelm the gains made with clean energy.”
Got sucked in a hole
Now there’s a hole in the sky
And the ground’s not cold
And if the ground’s not cold
Everything is gonna burn
We’ll all take turns, I’ll get mine too
This monkey’s gone to Heaven” –Pixies, This Monkey Gone to Heaven
The research helps establish how coastal processes influence atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and, in turn, climate.
Cycling of carbon in the open ocean and on land has been the focus of much research, but lead author Raymond Najjar says intervening coastal waters have “fallen through the cracks.” Najjar is a professor of oceanography in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.
“Coastal waters have a whole set of issues that are difficult to grapple with, such as the tides affecting certain areas twice a day, and this has made it difficult to incorporate this area into quantitative models,” Najjar says. “We recognized there was a gap there and thought we should develop a carbon budget so we could see what we know and don’t know.”
Planning for the research project began during a workshop at VIMS in 2012. Since then, the study’s 30 authors have gathered data from dozens of published studies to quantify how much carbon enters, exits, and is transformed within the study area’s coastal waters. They report in Global Biogeochemical Cycles that about 20 percent of the carbon entering coastal waters from rivers and the atmosphere is buried, while 80 percent flows out to the open ocean.
“Efforts like this help fill gaps in knowledge and inspire further research to help refine carbon budgets for the region,” Canuel says.
Indeed, Friedrichs and St. Laurent have already began follow-on work to resolve one of the biggest uncertainties in the recent study— the magnitude of carbon flow between large estuaries like Chesapeake Bay and the waters of the continental shelf, and how this may have changed over the past century.
Canuel and her students likewise continue efforts to develop high-resolution measurements of carbon transferred across the marsh-estuary interface.
“Despite advances in many aspects of the carbon cycle,” she says, “how tidal wetlands and estuaries modify exchanges among land, ocean, and atmosphere remains one of the biggest unknowns.”
The researchers also recognize that their recent budget exercise is not static.
“We know that many of the processes we’ve quantified are already undergoing change,” Friedrichs says. “With growing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, increasing global temperatures, and rising seas, what will this budget look like in 2100? Or even in 2050?” [Read more…]
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality regulators have approved stormwater permits for three Accomack County poultry houses.
The State Water Control Board voted 5-0 on Thursday.
The poultry farms are located in Atlantic, Withams, and New Church.
According to Virginia Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Ann Regn, “The applicants have been responsive to making changes resulting from inspections, and we expect them to comply with these additional requirements for environmental management.”
While the permits put more onus on farmers to monitor stormwater discharges, environmental groups such as The Chesapeake Bay Foundation voiced oppositon, and noted that the current regulations continue to leave the health of the Chesapeake Bay at risk.
The CBF said in comments filed with DEQ, regular monitoring of surface and ground water will be essential to protecting the Bay’s water quality. Monitoring would show if pollution is leaving these facilities, which could be addressed by requiring pollution reductions through conservation practices.
Virginia poultry operations produced about 28.3 million more birds in 2016 than in 2010—a 12 percent increase—according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Over the same time the weight of birds produced increased 27 percent, meaning the average bird is now larger and produces more manure. Much of this growth is taking place on the Eastern Shore.
New Voluntary Slow Speed Zone to Protect Right Whales
NOAA Fisheries announces that the voluntary vessel speed restriction zone (Dynamic Management Area or DMA) has been established to protect a group of five right whales sighted 69 nautical miles northeast of Virginia Beach on April 10.
Mariners are requested to route around this area or transit through it at 10 knots or less.
VOLUNTARY DYNAMIC MANAGEMENT AREAS (DMAs)
Mariners are requested to avoid or transit at 10 knots or less inside the following areas where persistent aggregations of right whales have been sighted. Find out more about ship strike reduction efforts.
Northeast of Virginia Beach, VA — In effect through April 24.
37 41 N
36 58 N
075 06 W
074 13 W
ACTIVE SEASONAL MANAGEMENT AREAS (SMAs)
Mandatory speed restrictions of 10 knots or less (50 CFR 224.105) are in effect in the following areas:
Cape Cod Bay SMA in effect through May 15, 2018
Block Island SMA in effect through April 30, 2018
New York, Philadelphia and Norfolk SMA kn effect through April 30, 2018
Right Whales in Crisis
The year 2017 was devastating for North Atlantic right whales, which suffered a loss of 17 whales–about 4 percent of their population–an alarming number for such a critically endangered species with a population currently estimated at about 450 animals.
In August 2017, NOAA Fisheries declared the increase in right whale mortalities an “Unusual Mortality Event,” which helps the agency direct additional scientific and financial resources to investigating, understanding, and reducing the mortalities in partnership with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and outside experts from the scientific research community.
On January 22, the first right whale mortality of 2018 was spotted off the Virginia coast.
Recent right whale sightings
Download the Whale Alert app for iPad and iPhone
Acoustic detections in Cape Cod Bay and the Boston TSS
Send a blank message to receive a return email listing all current U.S. DMAs and SMAs.
Details and graphics of all ship strike management zones currently in effect.
Reminder: Approaching a right whale closer than 500 yards in a violation of federal and state law.
Please report all right whale sightings to 866-755-NOAA (6622).
Questions? Contact Jennifer Goebel, Regional Office, at 978-281-9175