Anglers exceed Marylands striped bass quota by 60 percent; VA dedicates up to $150,000 to discover cause of fish kills; and more

From: Alliance for Chesapeake Bay News in Brief / By Staff and Wire Reports Anglers exceed Maryland’s striped bass quota by 60% For the second straight year, Maryland’s recreational anglers have exceeded their early season quota for striped bass, forcing state officials to look for ways to curb their enthusiasm. “Anglers are becoming more proficient,” said Howard King, fisheries director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “We have to control the effort. We have to fish responsibly.” Anglers caught 67,000 striped bass over the four-week season that began April 15, or 60 percent above the quota set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Last year, anglers also exceeded their early season quota by about 60 percent. Fisheries managers raised the minimum size from 28 to 33 inches for the first two weeks of this season. They also banned tournaments from April 15 to May 1 to ensure that big female fish were not harmed during spawning. The state is considering even more restrictions for next season, including increasing the minimum size further, shortening the spring season or restricting the type of fishing equipment. “We may have a very high minimum size, 38 inches or possibly more,” King said. “My goal is to get us out of this jam we face each year and by 2008 not be fishing under a quota.” King planned to hold a series of meetings with anglers and charter captains to get their input on how to control fishing before the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission convened in October. Talk about further restrictions worry charter boat captains. “We’re really in a corner,” said Charter Capt. Ed O’Brien, vice president of the Maryland Charter Boat Association, who has been fishing on the Bay for more than 30 years. “That (spring) fishery means the world to us. For many of us, that’s 45 to 50 percent of our business. We’re really dead right now.” VA dedicates up to $150,000 to discover cause of fish kills Virginia will provide up to $150,000 in environmental emergency funds to help determine the cause of fish kills that have plagued the Shenandoah River and its tributaries since 2004. Gov. Timothy Kaine’s authorization at a meeting with the Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force in October will finance research through early 2007. The study will be funded by Virginia Environmental Emergency Response Funds. Despite extensive water quality and fish monitoring, state environmental officials have not found the source of fish kills that have decimated populations of adult smallmouth bass and redbreast sunfish. Scientists continue to seek the cause of last year’s fish kill on the South Fork of the Shenandoah, where 80 percent of the smallmouth bass and redbreast sunfish developed lesions that resembled cigar burns and died. A similar kill occurred on the North Fork in 2004. “The Shenandoah River is a vital part of this region’s character and economic vitality,” Kaine said. “We must do all we can to determine the cause of these mysterious fish kills.” Inspector General: Bay Program uses grants ‘effectively’ The EPA’s Bay Program office has used taxpayer dollars “effectively” on projects that will restore the Chesapeake, the agency’s Office of Inspector General reported in September. “We determined that EPA effectively awarded grant funds toward projects that should maximize environmental benefits in the Chesapeake Bay,” declared Acting Inspector General Bill Roderick in the report, which made no recommendations for changes — an unusual result from such an audit. The inspector general reviewed the Bay Program’s grants to determine whether they were going to projects that would yield the most environmental improvements for the Bay. It came in response to criticism of the slow pace of Bay cleanup as well as the agency’s recent admission that key water quality and wildlife habitat goals of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement will not be met by 2010. According to the audit, the Bay Program awarded roughly $8 million in grants during the three years reviewed — 2003, 2004 and 2005 — to implement state programs and $7 million for technical and other grants for specific projects. Another $8 million funded EPA personnel and office management, interagency agreements, and congressional earmarks. In each instance, the inspector general found the grants were used to contribute toward “one or more of the goals of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement.” PA board OKs tougher limits on mercury emissions A Pennsylvania board in October approved proposed limits on mercury emissions from power plants that are tougher than the federal standard, despite intense opposition from power companies and business groups. The Environmental Quality Board, which is dominated by appointees of Gov. Ed Rendell, voted 17-3 to send the proposal to a state regulatory review committee, the last step before it can be submitted to the federal government for approval. Rendell’s proposal would make Pennsylvania, the nation’s fourth-largest coal state, the first major coal producer among states with tougher-than-federal mercury rules. Pennsylvania is also the nation’s second-biggest electricity producer and has the second-highest mercury emissions. The Rendell administration has pressed for the rule, saying it will protect public health and wildlife better than a weaker federal rule. Opponents, including the power industry, coal-country lawmakers and miners’ unions, say the expense of complying with the tougher rule would force some smaller coal-fired power plants out of business, drive up electricity bills and cost power plant jobs. Overall, the Rendell administration’s proposal would seek a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions by 2015. Under the federal rule, Pennsylvania is projected to reduce its mercury emissions by 86 percent by approximately 2026, according to the EPA. The exact year is not clear because of the trading program that would let power plants extend the reduction deadline. EPA signs pact with Perdue to help protect bays The EPA and Perdue Farms Inc. recently signed a pact that will set up a program to minimize the environmental impact that poultry farms have on the Chesapeake and coastal bays around the Delmarva peninsula. Under the “Clean Bays” agreement, trained flock supervisors from Perdue will visit the larger poultry farms throughout the Delmarva peninsula beginning in 2007 to evaluate how they are controlling runoff and addressing litter disposal. The supervisors will use a checklist to examine how well the farms are complying with nutrient management regulations related to their poultry operations and identify areas for improvement. Based on the results of the pilot effort, Perdue will use the information gathered from the farms to launch a companywide environmental management program in 2008 for all of its contract poultry farms throughout the country. Under the program, Perdue, the EPA and other partners will provide training and assistance to poultry farmers so that they can learn how to be at or above compliance with guidelines on controlling runoff and managing litter disposal. Global warming, pollution could harm oysters Oysters exposed to high water temperatures and a common heavy metal are unable to obtain sufficient oxygen and convert it to cellular energy, according to a study presented at The American Physiological Society conference, “Comparative Physiology 2006.” The study showed how cadmium reduces the oyster’s tolerance of warmer water temperatures and makes it more vulnerable during the summer when water temperatures rise. Half of the oysters exposed to the pollutant in 82-degree water died within 20 days, said lead researcher Gisela Lannig of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar & Marine Research in Germany. Oysters exposed to cadmium at lower temperatures showed a much lower mortality rate, suggesting that the combination of high temperatures and cadmium is more stressful than either of these conditions alone, she said. The study, which used Crassostrea virginica, the species native to the Chesapeake, was carried out by Lannig and Jason Flores and Inna Sokolova, of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The work was done in North Carolina. State park gets Susquehanna island Maryland’s park system grew by 72 acres in September as a power company donated a small but historic island in the Susquehanna River to an adjacent state park. Roberts Island was the farthest north that Capt. John Smith ventured as he explored the Bay about 400 years ago. The state plans to put the rocky, wooded chunk of uninhabited land on a tour of places that Smith visited. “The island is rich in Native American history, and will be a welcome addition to the Susquehanna State Park as well as an important landmark along the Chesapeake National Historic Water Trail,” said Gov. Robert Ehrlich. Chicago-based Exelon Corp., which owns the Conowingo Dam and hydroelectric plant north of the island, handed over title to the land during a news conference at Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis. Exelon donated the land to the Conservation Fund, a nonprofit organization that orchestrated the deal, which then handed over the title to the park. Wine sales raise $10,000 for Bay Here’s a toast to the Bay with real benefits. Beaulieu Vineyard in October presented a $10,000 donation to the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The vineyard had agreed to donate $1 for every case of wine it sold in April, May and June. Chesapeak-themed Beaulieu wine displays were placed in retail centers throughout Maryland that showed consumers how they could contribute to the Bay’s preservation. Restaurant diners also had the opportunity to contribute when they ordered the wine at Maryland restaurants. The trust makes grants to support Bay restoration activities.