Thursday 18 April 2019

Fisheries & Oysters (6)

We had some important legislative wins for clean water in Maryland. But first let’s give a big shout out to the amazing win in Virginia on cleaning up a legacy of toxic coal ash stored on our river banks! Virginia Safe Disposal of Coal Ash - Great news in Virginia! On March 20, Governor Northam signed into law a bill (SB 1355) to safely dispose of 28 million tons of toxic coal ash Dominion Energy now has stored on the banks of the Potomac, James and Elizabeth Rivers. This bill sets a national precedent for how to safely remove a legacy of toxic coal ash stored along our waterways in our region and across the nation. Potomac Riverkeeper Dean Naujoks and James Riverkeeper Jamie Brunkow have worked for the past 5 years with local communities and legislators to fight Dominion's plan to cap-in-placecoal ash ponds that eventually leak into our waterways. This bill requires all legacy coal ash in the Commonwealth be recycled or safely landfilled within 15 years, rather than left in the current dangerous state of cap-in-place. Maryland Comprehensive Agriculture Reporting and Enforcement Bill (Del. Stewart – HB904 | Sen. Pinsky – SB546) This bill is arguably one of the most important agriculture bills that has gained traction in the Maryland General Assembly in the past decade. It will improve transparency and fairness in the State’s industrial agriculture permitting program, create penalties for violations of phosphorous pollution regulations, and improve the state’s overall agricultural enforcement efforts. It will prevent the state from waiving permit fees for…
Earlier this year, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released a five-year report, as required by the Maryland legislature, on the success of oyster sanctuaries. The draft report said that biomass and oyster populations in sanctuaries were going up while oysters in private fisheries were declining.  While the report came with a disclaimer that the findings were preliminary, they showcased that sanctuaries show signs of progress. Oysters are hard little workers. Each one of these amazing bivalves can filter pollutants out of up to 50 gallons of water per day. Unfortunately, they are at just one percent of their historic population in the Chesapeake Bay.  Waterkeepers on both shores of the Chesapeake Bay are seeking public policy that balances the needs of restoration with commercial fishery interests.  Even with information gleaned from the five-year study — and a requirement from the General Assembly (in the form of 2016 legislation) — to follow the science on oyster fisheries management, the commission responsible for managing oysters may be unfairly tipping the scales toward industry.  Oysters are a keystone species. Without a healthy oyster population, it is nearly impossible to restore the health of the Bay.  The Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC), which determines and manages both public sanctuaries and private fisheries, is dominated by representatives of the seafood industry and watermen groups. There are scientists and researchers involved, but they aren’t permitted to take an advocacy position. As far as people representing the Bay and the environment, there are only two spots…
The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the South River Federation, a local environmental nonprofit, teamed up to help purify South River and connected waterways with a natural filter: oysters. Around 400 years ago, oyster reefs grew as large as 30 feet, with each oyster filtering up to 50 gallons of water a day to clean the Chesapeake Bay in only eight days, said Jesse Iliff, the South Riverkeeper. Hundreds of years of harvesting depleted oyster levels, Iliff said, and now it takes over a year to achieve the same filtering. "So far the science bears out that if you have a 3D structure (in an oyster reef) you will get a lot more viability than just laying oysters flat," Iliff said. READ MORE.. (Published in Capital Gazette, June 22, 2016) 

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