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I have been watching TV shows that show waters from all over the world. Most have crystal clear water with 100' of visability and beautiful beaches. Then I think of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. It's sickening to compare the two and it's only getting worse. That's all..........Gary
 

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It’s really sad Gary,
I firmly believe if we left oysters alone they would filter the water like it used to be…not trying to start a fight with watermen. I respect your hard work and your living. It’s just if you watch the video where oysters filter a dirty fish tank and make the water clear in a few hours, you would have to believe it will work. In the Old Days they caught white Marlin at the Jackspot. The water was Blue…now it’s green.
I read an article where the oysters used to be able to filter the bay in a few days…no longer…
Need substrate for oysters to cling to and harder to dredge em off of. Just my 2 cents
 

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Menhaden also regulate water quality by filtering harmful nutrients as they feed.
 

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Gary,

Thanks for posting, and I agree the Bay water clarity is getting worse, not better.

Water clarity is influenced by many chemical and biological parameters. In general, an estuary that includes multiple river system inputs like the Chesapeake is strongly influenced by the river input. Both suspended and disolved sediments may reduce water clarity, and the presence or absence of algae and other biologics also influence clarity. The Bay is a sediment and nutrient rich water body and that is what makes it so biologically productive, and those characteristics often reduce water clarity.

Agricultural practices and sewage/stormwater treatments (or lack of) also have a strong influence on the chemistry and water clarity. Precipitation events also have a strong influence--wetter periods reslult in lower water clarity.

Reducing ag runoff, improving water treatment plants, and increasing the oyster population would all help improve Ches Bay water quality. However, it would never be as clear as a tropical island that does not have much water runoff.

Comparing Puerto Rico, which has high mountains, lots of agriculture, and a rainforest, with the nearby Virgin Islands that have none of that, they have radically different water clarity because of all the runoff from PR compared to little run off in VI. All of those super clear tropical waters have low productivity--there is not much algae or biomass of fish and the reef fish populations are super sensitive to overfishing because of the low productivity.


 

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Never bought the whole " oysters used to filter the bay every 87 seconds nonsense".

First, the one paper I gave more than a cursory look at was assuming an even distribution at a very high density. Now, I doubt there was an even distribution, esp at depth. And the bay was deeper.

Second, if oysters and menhaden filtered the water THAT effectively, what was the food chain like, what with them eating up all the phyto and zooplankton?

Granted, most spawning/ nursery areas of the fish WE care about are upstream of most oysters, but still.

Sometimes, clear water is sterile water.
Might LOOK pristine, but doesn't mean it's a healthy ecosystem.

Sort of like deer densities in unbroken, climax eastern forests. Just couldn't support many.

Politicians and SOME environmental groups talk about saving the bay, but their policies seem to be always chasing the dollar, first and foremost.

How many more homes were built in the watershed since the Save the Bay movement started?

THAT ought to tell you how serious they are.

Can we do better?
Most assuredly.

Will we?


Short of erasing man
 

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Me personally I have not seen the Bay water that clear to see 100'. Also I have not been fishing on the Bay long either. Water that I have seen that clear has been in the tropics and clear does not mean a healthy eco system.

I do remember that blob that was covering the Potomac at the Wilson Bridge back in the 90's.
 

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We'll build a giant dam, increase construction of roads, dwellings and industrial structures, continually dump sewage, fertilizers, manure, chicken ****, and road chemicals in the bay for decades, and all we need to do is be nice to oysters and menhaden and sing cumbaya, I'll buy that, and that bridge too...
 

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Population in the watershed has doubled since the 50's and gone up almost 50% in the last 40 years. I also wonder how much smaller the Bay and it's tributaries were in colonial times, considering how much real estate erosion has consumed. With the increased expanse comes a greater fetch for the winds, which speeds this process up and fills the Bay with silt.

The simple answer to Proggers question of, will we do better, is no. I have zero expectation of improvement.
I spent a few days on the coast of Maine this summer, where they embrace natural habitat and seem to proactively limit sprawl. Meanwhile, here in MD, we're looking to add another Bay Bridge so we can pack the Eastern Shore with as many bodies as we can. On land that is rapidly disappearing (through erosion and sinking) and flooding more frequently.
 

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I’ve never been to Maine but have seen pics and heard it is definitely beautiful, but it’s not maryland and it’s easy to curtail sprawl in a state that only has 2 weeks of summer a year. The rest it’s cold wet and brutal.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
It's not just water clarity. There is coliform, vibrio and many other bacteria. The only way I would get in that water is if I was on fire. Grasses will not grow if sunlight can't penetrate and create photosynthesis. Sad part is I was around the bay in the 50's and saw it for myself. Are fish, oysters and crabs really safe to eat Unfortunately I think it's only gonna get worse not better ???????...........Gary
 

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It's not just water clarity. There is coliform, vibrio and many other bacteria. The only way I would get in that water is if I was on fire. Grasses will not grow if sunlight can't penetrate and create photosynthesis. Sad part is I was around the bay in the 50's and saw it for myself. Are fish, oysters and crabs really safe to eat Unfortunately I think it's only gonna get worse not better ???????...........Gary
In my 100% non-scientific opinion, crabs and fish are safe to eat. Oysters not so much. That said, I'll take the chance come January and start slurping.
 

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It’s really sad Gary,
I firmly believe if we left oysters alone they would filter the water like it used to be…not trying to start a fight with watermen. I respect your hard work and your living. It’s just if you watch the video where oysters filter a dirty fish tank and make the water clear in a few hours, you would have to believe it will work. In the Old Days they caught white Marlin at the Jackspot. The water was Blue…now it’s green.
I read an article where the oysters used to be able to filter the bay in a few days…no longer…
Need substrate for oysters to cling to and harder to dredge em off of. Just my 2 cents
It would work but it would take time and the oysters that got old would b full of toxins and useless as a food source. Yes I love eating oysters but would give them up if they were left in the bay to filter the water like there supposed to do.man is going to do his self in give that another 50 years but mite not take that long at all
Head Chin Hat Beard Cartoon
 

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My experience in the Severn is that water clarity, on average, was at its lowest point from about '83 to the early 90s. Since then it's improved somewhat on average, but is highly variable. Even going back to, say, the 1500s, the Bay and especially the tribs were almost certainly nowhere near as clear as the Bahamas. What makes the Bay and other estuaries such rich ecosystems also clouds the water to at least some degree.

Another fun fact is that there's never been a Chesapeake without people on its shores. Those people could be hard on their environment from the very beginning, including causing stream erosion and sedimentation, slash and burn forest clearing, etc. The large tracts of unbroken forests European settlers found in the eastern U.S. were largely due to reforested land after major native population declines, coupled with the decimation of most large, grazing animals by natives. This is not to denigrate natives or suggest that they deserved what European settlers did to them; it's simply to acknowledge that they were people and societies, just like us, with all of our positives and flaws. People have been woven into the Bay's ecosystem from the beginning.

Fast forward to the mid-1800s through the early 1900s, and much of what is forest today was cleared farmland. Look at any arial photo of the Bay watershed from, say, the 1910s through the 50s, and you'll see cleared land as far as the eye can see. The Severn River was closed to commercial oystering in 1912 due to pollution.

The difference today is that there's a lot more of us. And even though we have more forest cover than the early 1900s, we've also added a lot more impervious surface to what was once pervious farmland. In fact, even as population growth in the watershed has slowed significantly, we continue to add impervious surface at record rates. Some things are improving; agriculture has improved substantially, as has sewage. Air pollution has also improved dramatically. Suburban runoff is, unfortunately, the one category of pollution that continues to increase. But, you know, who wants to pay a "rain tax" when we can continue to pollute at will and blame everyone else for the Bay's decline? Or who wants to slow the spread of impervious surface when we can elect politicians who support sprawl development at any cost?

From what I've seen, the solutions are straightforward:

1. A Marshall Plan for oyster restoration. Scaling restoration 20-fold is still cheaper than just about any other solution and probably more effective.
2. Continue to pass tougher forest and meadow conservation laws. And continue to remove red tap from redevelopment. We have thousands of already cleared, paved land in the watershed that is economically defunct and begging for redevelopment.
 
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1. A Marshall Plan for oyster restoration. Scaling restoration 20-fold is still cheaper than just about any other solution and probably more effective.

This would be the cheaper route but the state will need to add more restrictions on commercial harvesting in the state for a time period until the threshold of clean is met. I only say commercial because I never knew any old timers where I am from going to find oysters except from the store.
 

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The whole bay oyster thing is weird to me. To be honest, they’re really not that good to eat unless you dunk them in salt or some kind of hot sauce. Why doesn’t the bay shut the fishery down? Do the waterman really make that much money on them to endure the hard work and weather it takes to harvest?
 

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I was lucky enough about 40 years ago to take to some old timers about how they remember the bay. I heard true tales of seeing crabs down in sea grass deeper than the six foot long net could reach.

I've had opportunity to scuba dive many places. As others said - clear water does not always hold most life. There is a balance - I'd love to see our bay near Annapolis have 6 feet of visibility. Often it is inches in summer time.

One thing needed - imho - is grass beds along the shorelines. Growing up - I spent a lot of time on Severn river. The grass was so thick - it would foul boat props. The grass beds also cushioned waves / wakes so shore did not get torn up.

I will say some things are better. Run off control ponds are helping.
 
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