Keep EPA Protections For Us All & Keep Sturgeon on a Path to Full Recovery

Note: The Atlantic Sturgeon you might ask? “Yes – absolutely” is my answer!

The government has served as a way to protect us, that includes “us” the masses and the environment, from corporate pollution and abuse. Now Trump is wanting to take that protection away from us and it’s time to fight back on this and also understand the significant advances made by, for one, the EPA and water protections. These programs must continue. On NPR’s June 28, 2017 program “All Things Considered” I was entranced with the information about the importance of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in helping to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The EPA has been effective in helping to rid the Bay of “Dead Zones” to then allow it’s natural state to flourish once again. But it was, in particular, the comment from one of the environmentalists that enthralled me when he said the following:

“When I first heard that spawning sturgeon were back in the bay, my reaction was, ‘Yes! We can get this done,'” says Will Baker, the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s president. “It’s really exciting. You give nature half a chance and she will produce every single time.”

Below, please find information about the Atlantic Sturgeon in the James River; a portion of the interview on NPR and history of the Atlantic Sturgeon from the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Heather Gray
June 30, 2017
Justice Initiative International

Keep Sturgeon on a Path to Full Recovery

| Aug 31, 2016 | Advocacy, James Riverkeeper, News

(The James River is 35 miles upstream from the Chesapeake Bay where the Atlantic Sturgeon is also being revived thanks to the  EPA, environmental regulations and water regulations.)

Atlantic sturgeon have survived for 200 million years, but today these ancient goliaths are on the brink of extinction. Human activities have caused Atlantic sturgeon numbers to decline by way of overfishing, loss of spawning habitat, and poor water quality.
In 2012 Atlantic sturgeon were listed as a federally Endangered Species, and renewed efforts began to aid the recovery of this important species. The National Marine Fisheries Service is moving forward with the next step to protect Atlantic sturgeon by designating critical habitat, or areas that are essential to the conservation of the species. Designating these areas is vital in order to rescue Atlantic sturgeon populations.
In the James River we are fortunate to still see signs of Atlantic sturgeon spawning migrations. James River Association and our partners have worked to restore habitat through creation of spawning reefs, to promote awareness, and to educate the public about this fascinating species. Formalizing critical habitat is necessary to keep sturgeon on a path to full recovery.

 

Chesapeake Bay Dead Zones Are Fading,  
 But Proposed EPA Cuts Threaten Success

June 28, 20175:22 PM ET

Drive east from Washington and eventually you run smack into the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, the massive estuary that stretches from the mouth of the Susquehanna River at Maryland’s northern tip and empties into the Atlantic 200 miles away near Norfolk, Va.
The Chesapeake is home to oysters, clams, and famous Maryland blue crab.
It’s the largest estuary in the United States.
And for a long time, it was one of the most polluted.
Decades of runoff from grassy suburban yards and farm fields as far north as New York state, plus sewage and other waste dumped by the hundreds of gallons, made the Chesapeake so dirty that by 1983, the crab population had plummeted to just 2 percent of what Capt. John Smith saw when he explored the bay in the 1600s.
For years, people tried to clean it up. States and the federal government spent millions of dollars. The first effort began in 1983 – officially launched by President Ronald Reagan in his 1984 State of the Union Address.

And each time, the cleanup efforts failed. The bay’s health wasn’t getting much better.

By 2009, when the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sued the Environmental Protection Agency in an attempt to get the EPA to do more to clean up the bay, the Chesapeake’s dead zone was so big it often covered a cubic mile in the summer.

Dead zones form when the water becomes too concentrated with nitrogen and phosphorus – allowing algal blooms to grow and block out sunlight from reaching beneath the water and causing populations of fish and crabs to plummet.

Then, last summer, scientists recorded no dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay. And wildlife was returning, too. The EPA’s new plan seemed to be working.

“When I first heard that spawning sturgeon were back in the bay, my reaction was, ‘Yes! We can get this done,'” says Will Baker, the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s president. “It’s really exciting. You give nature half a chance and she will produce every single time.”
Scientists and advocates for the bay say that success is fragile. And it may be even more so now. The Trump administration’s budget proposal calls for eliminating the program’s $73 million in funding.
“I think if we saw the federal government withdraw, you would see the Chesapeake Bay revert to a national disgrace right as it’s becoming a great national source of pride,” Baker says. “Things are going in the right direction, but nature can turn on a dime and I don’t think it’s a scare tactic to say within the next eight years, we could see the last 35 years of effort go down the tubes and start to change direction.”

And that could have implications not only for the future of the bay cleanup, but for any other states hoping to clean up some of the country’s other most polluted waters – from Lake Erie to the Gulf of Mexico.

(Click here to read the entire interview on NPR!)

Atlantic Sturgeon
Atlantic Sturgeon
Atlantic Sturgeon

Acipenser oxyrhynchus

 

 

The Atlantic sturgeon is a bony, ancient-looking fish that visits the Chesapeake Bay in spring to spawn in Virginia’s James and York rivers. It was once found throughout the Bay and its freshwater rivers, but is now endangered.

Appearance:

The Atlantic sturgeon has a brown, tan or bluish-black body and a whitish belly. It has no scales, but five rows of bony plates, called scutes, cover its head and body: one along the back, one on either side and two along the belly. It grows slowly, eventually reaching 5 to 6 feet in length. Males weigh up to 90 pounds and females weigh up to 160 pounds. Its long, hard snout has an upturned tip, with four sensory barbels on the underside of its snout. Its mouth is soft and toothless.

Habitat:

Lives at the bottom of freshwater rivers during its time in the Chesapeake Bay region. Spends most of its life in the ocean and tends to travel alone, rather than in schools.

Range:

Travel through the Bay in April to May on their way to freshwater spawning areas in the James and York rivers, and again in autumn when they leave the Bay for coastal ocean waters. All of the Bay’s large rivers likely once had spawning populations of Atlantic sturgeon.

Feeding:

These fish prey upon benthic creatures including clams and other mollusks, crustaceans, worms and insects. As bottom-feeders, they use their snout to root through the mud and find their prey, then suck it into their mouth like a vacuum.

Predators:

Because of the bony plates covering its body, the Atlantic sturgeon has few natural predators. Human activities such as pollution, historic overfishing and damming of rivers threaten sturgeon.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Sturgeon are anadromous, meaning they live in the ocean and spawn in freshwater rivers. Spawning occurs from April to June in the freshwater river they were born in, with sturgeon typically only returning to spawn every 3 to 5 years. Females can lay up to 2 million eggs, which are large and black and stick to the bottom of the river. After laying their eggs, females leave their spawning areas, while males remain there until autumn. Once hatched, juveniles stay in their natal river for as long as six years before moving into the Bay’s open waters and eventually the ocean. Males do not reach sexual maturity until they are at least 10 years old, and females take nearly 20 years to mature. Atlantic sturgeon can live for more than 60 years.

Other Facts:

  • Sturgeons are prehistoric fish that have existed for more than 120 million years. They were around during the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
  • Part of the Atlantic sturgeon’s scientific name, oxyrhynchus, means “sharp snout.”
  • Sturgeons are the largest fish native to the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The largest Atlantic sturgeon ever recorded was caught in Canada. It measured 14 feet long and weighed 811 pounds.
  • Sturgeons were abundant when English settlers arrived in the Bay region in the 1600s. They were a reliable source of food for the settlers most of the year.
  • Sturgeons supported an important fishing industry from colonial times to the early 20thcentury. In particular, caviar from sturgeon eggs was considered a delicacy in Europe.
  • Sturgeons are very sensitive to low oxygen, pollution and other poor water conditions. This, combined with their slow rate of maturity, damming of their spawning rivers and historic commercial fishing pressure, has caused the species to become very rare.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officially declared the Atlantic sturgeon an endangered species in 2012. It is illegal to fish for, catch or harvest Atlantic sturgeon or their eggs.
  • Fishes of Chesapeake Bay by Edward O. Murdy, Ray S. Birdsong and John A. Musick
  • Life in the Chesapeake Bay by Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson
  • Maryland Fish Facts: Atlantic Sturgeon – Maryland Department of Natural Resources
  • Atlantic Sturgeon – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office
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