The Chesapeake Bay Foundation says water quality is improving, but fishing is not. The 2014 State of the Bay report says rockfish have been declining so much since 2003 that catch limits were automatically triggered this year.
“Scientists have found that rockfish are dying at higher rates in recent years,” says the report, “probably because of Mycobacteriosis, a disease triggered by stress from low oxygen levels and poor nutrition from lack of preferred forage species like menhaden.”
Blue crabs are down also, to less than half of the 2012 level. They think that’s due to less underwater grass hiding the baby crabs. The fishing is hard hit also by dead zones — low oxygen areas — caused mainly by rain washing nitrogen and phosphorus used on farms into the Bay.
“Agriculture is the largest source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution damaging local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. This is not because agriculture is more polluting than other land use, but because agriculture is the second-largest land use in the region, behind forests.“
On the bright side, sewage pollution is down and underwater grasses are coming back, along with forests and wetlands. Conditions in the Potomac and Patuxent Rivers are looking up, but the Anacostia River is still a “toxic hotspot.”
OVERALL: The grade remains the same as in 2012 — a D+. The gains in lower pollution levels weren’t enough to offset the declines in fishing resources. The CBF is calling on state and federal governments to implement additional regulation to force change.
Here’s a video summary of the CBF report: