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Atlantic CoastWatch September-October, 2005

An Era Ending? News For Coastal Advocates


Never, in the debris-laden wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Ophelia, Rita and
Wilma have there been so many reasons for people to reverse field and abandon at
z
least the most vulnerable portions of the cherished Atlantic coastal zone. Among
them: An Era Ending? 1

• Newly strident warnings about storm surges. These initiate at sea, when Mixed Signals on Oysters 1
strong winds form a dome of water around a hurricane’s eye. When the storm
moves into shallow areas, reports NOAA, “an intense hurricane can send a dome of Sayings 2
water many miles wide and more than 25 feet deep barreling toward the shore as
the storm hits land.” Long thought to be less threatening than damage from
Windstorms 3
hurricane winds and rain, surges are now seen as a growing problem since develop-
ment has stripped away natural defenses such as islands, wetlands, mangroves,
and coral reefs. In addition the sea level continues to rise and in some especially Publications 4
damage-prone areas, such as portions of the North Carolina coast, the land is also
subsiding at the rate of 8 inches a century. Sonar Testing Steams Ahead 4

• Evidence that changing weather patterns will provoke more violent Thumbs Up for Pump-Out 5
weather and documentation of more frequent storms occurring with rising intensity
and frequency in recent years. The extent to which blame can be placed on global Rooselvelt Island Flap 5
warming as a result of human activities remains a matter of debate. Geologist
Wallace Broecker, of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, sounds the alarm:
“Were poking the climate system by adding greenhouse gases,” he said in a recent Ford Plant Clean-Up 6
speech. “Will poking this angry beast cause it to lash out?”
(Continued, p. 7) Maine Lobster Heists 6

Mixed Signals on Oysters BRAC Lowers Boom 7

Caribbean Reef Crisis 8


Thanks principally to diseases, habitat loss and overharvesting, the Chesa-
peake Bay harvest of the conventionally grown native oyster (Cassostrea virginica)
has dwindled to practically nil from 15 million bushels a year during the peak year of z
1884. Atlantic coast wide, says NOAA, landings are down to less than 4% of what
they were late in the nineteenth century. Recurring
With little positive news to suggest a broad turnaround, and especially in People; Awards; Species &
reaction to the precipitous Chesapeake decline, the National Marine Fisheries Habitats; Restorations;
Service (NMFS) has begun considering a petition to add the oyster to the endan- Report Cards; Products;
gered species list. But when this fall’s Gulf of Mexico hurricanes played havoc with Funding
oyster beds in the region, which usually supplies most of the nation’s crop, jurisdic-
tions such as Virginia eased the its harvesting rules to keep markets amply stocked. Atlantic CoastWatch is a bimonthly
It is, in short, a perplexing time to plot the best possible future for the tasty bivalve. nonprofit newsletter for those inter-
ested in the environmentally sound
One consideration is the limited but important success of modern oyster development of the coastline
farming operations in many communities along the coast. Farms are doing well from the Gulf of Maine
from Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay to South Carolina, in whose relatively clean to the Eastern Caribbean.
waters the resource remains in good shape. In the aptly-named Oyster Bay, Long
Island, reported grower Dave Relyea in a Stamford Advocate interview, “the Coastal News Nuggets, our weekly
oysters aren’t going to become extinct. If we manage them properly, it’s going to be news headline service, is available
a thriving farming operation.” through the Atlantic CoastWatch web
(Continued, p. 6) site: www.atlanticcoastwatch.org.
2
Atlantic CoastWatch
Vol. 9, No. 4 Sayings
A project of the Sustainable (What follows was originally published 8/21/05. Reprinted with permission
Development Institute, which of The Charlotte Observer. Copyright owned by The Charlotte Observer.)
seeks to heighten the environmen-
In the 18th and 19th centuries, North Carolina’s sounds and tidewater
tal quality of economic develop- areas produced an amazing bounty of large, succulent, salty oysters. These pearly
ment efforts, in coastal and in gems were harvested from huge oyster reefs that presented a menace to unwary
forest regions, by communicating sailors.
information about better policies
Those days are gone. In the 21st century, we are harvesting the pathetic
and practices. SDI is classified as bounty of centuries of neglect, ignorance and incompetence. Oyster harvests are
a 501(c)(3) organization, exempt down to a trickle. Poor water quality, disease and overfishing have reduced Tar
from federal income tax. Heel oyster fisheries to a tiny fraction of the marvelous resource that once made
our oysters famous. It’s doubly troubling, because oysters are more than just a
Board of Directors delightful treat: They also serve as one of nature’s more efficient filters, cleansing
solids from the water column and keeping surrounding waters clean.
Freeborn G. Jewett, Jr., Chair
Robert J. Geniesse, Chair Emeritus The decline in the oyster population is bad news for all of us. But state and
Roger D. Stone, President local officials and forward-looking environmental groups such as the NC Coastal
Gay P. Lord, Secretary Federation decided years ago to do something about it. They launched a number of
Hart Fessenden initiatives, including an oyster shell recycling program to provide habitat for young
David P. Hunt oyster larvae. They promoted regulations to improve water quality across the state
Simon Sidamon-Eristoff and to clean up the nutrient-ridden runoff that flushes fertilizers off lawns and
heavy metals off urban roads in the Piedmont and downstream to the coast.
Scientific Advisory Council
The NC General Assembly has begun to respond in impressive fashion. In
Gary Hartshorn the 2005-07 state budget, lawmakers set aside $100 million each year for the NC
Stephen P. Leatherman Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which finances clean water programs from
Jerry R. Schubel the coast to the mountains. And it set aside nearly $2.4 million for oyster restora-
Christopher Uhl tion and oyster hatchery programs over two years. These appropriations are well-
timed. Thanks in part to the precipitous decline of the oyster in the Chesapeake Bay,
Staff there is talk of adding the eastern oyster to the endangered species list — which
means no more oysters could be harvested legally until they return in sufficient
Roger D. Stone, Director & President numbers. That’s a drastic measure, but scientists are wise to think about it before
Shaw Thacher, Project Manager oysters go the way of the Carolina parakeet.
Robert C. Nicholas III, Contr. Editor
Anita Herrick, Correspondent Individuals are joining the oyster restoration effort, too. A new state
program will begin issuing permits next month to allow individuals to grow oysters
Foundation Donors in cages suspended below their docks and piers in coastal areas. Each healthy
oyster in one of these oyster gardens can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day,
Avenir Foundation making a significant contribution to water quality.
The Fair Play Foundation
The Madriver Foundation North Carolina’s sounds, rivers and creeks may never return to the oyster
The Moore Charitable Foundation paradise that once helped feed the nation. But state and local officials, environmen-
The Curtis and Edith Munson tal groups and individual oyster gardeners deserve thanks for their efforts to
Foundation restore such a valuable resource to our coastal waters — and our kitchen tables.
The Summit Fund of Washington

Sponsored Project
With Appreciation
Environmental Film Festival in the
Nation’s Capital We offer special thanks to the Madriver Foundation for continuing its
March 16-26, 2006 generous support, and great appreciation to these other recent donors:

Featuring screenings of documentary, Robin Clarke Herbert S. and Enid C.B. Okun
feature, archival, children’s and Louisa C. Duemling Pfizer Foundation Matching Gifts Program
animated films. Marion S. Guggenheim A. Ann Stone
Sandra I. van Heerden Mary M. Thacher
www.dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org Elizabeth D. Hodder Mr. and Mrs.William B. White
Gay P. Lord Elsa B. Williams
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People

Windstorms Howard Lippincott, legendary New


Jersey yacht racer and builder of
many traditional Star, Lightning, and
From the Canadian Maritimes and Maine to the waters off Cape Cod and
Comet sailboats, died at 85. Fiercely if
Long Island, the growing wave of proposed offshore wind farm ventures is provok-
politely competitive, Lippincott was
ing concern among local residents about impacts upon wildlife and other issues.
known for his use while racing of a
secret weapon: the stethoscope. With
The recent efforts and confrontations between Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and
his crewman tuned to the keel bolts,
Greenpeace and their allies (each razzing the other’s publicity cruises) over the 130
reported Soundings, Lippincott would
windmills proposed by Cape Wind Associates in Nantucket Sound are only the most
gain an advantage by positioning his
high profile examples of controversy. Other disputes have broken out in Long
boat in the shallowest possible water
Island and elsewhere.
on the edge of the silty New Jersey
shore—slowed neither by mud closer
Cape Wind’s is a purely commercial venture, located in federal waters,
to land, nor by adverse currents to
which caught local residents by surprise and has drawn the ire of many politicians
seaward.
representing the locality and the state. But the Long Island Offshore Wind Park is a
joint undertaking of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and FLP Energy, which
Eyebrows were raised in Maryland
along with local renewable energy advocates had engaged with communities early
when veteran congressman Wayne T.
over the construction of 40 towers to be built as close as 3.6 miles to Jones Beach.
Gilchrest, a Republican well known for
his strong environmental advocacy,
At one point polls taken by local news organizations showed an 80%
abruptly changed his position and
favorable response. Opposition has since developed, from Amityville Mayor Peter
voted for the highly pro-industry
Imbert and several ad hoc local committees. Concerns include disruptions to the
energy bill that recently passed the
viewshed and to commercial fishermen, dangers from a possible spills of petroleum
House of Representatives by a single
products held aboard a substation and in the wind generators themselves, and the
vote. Suspecting that “some horse
windmills’ possible danger to birds.
trading” was going on, the Baltimore
Sun hoped that “the compensation
Dan Zaweski, manager of LIPA’s Clean Energy initiative, told Newsday
was worth it. That the Senate can
that leaks are unlikely and that the 1,200 gallons of diesel fuel and about 200
block the House’s mistakes isn’t a
gallons of lubricants aboard each generator would be insignificant compared to the
sufficient excuse for supporting such
amounts that ships transiting the area carry. Studies of bird movements in the area
irresponsible legislation.”
are ongoing and public hearings planned.
David Kyler at the Center for a
TransCanada is seeking a permit to put up wind testing equipment for a
Sustainable Coast in Saint Simons
possible 200 turbine project in Franklin County, Maine. Smaller projects include The
Island, GA, wonders “if there are
Amherst Wind Energy Project to be located on Tantramar Marsh on the border of
other groups interested in forming an
Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Aroostook County, Maine has obtained permits
East Coast Association of like-minded
for a 50-megawatt project on Mars Hill. Construction has started on five wind
NGOs who are working to promote
towers located on marshland in Atlantic City, New Jersey, with some locals fearing
environmental stability.” Such an
damage to sea birds.
association, Kyler continues, “could be
helpful with information exchange and
Tracking regulatory responsibilities on windmills is tricky. Recently the US
tech support, as well as strengthening
Congress shifted approval of offshore wind farms from the Army Corps of Engi-
collaborative projects and related
neers to the Interior Department which is developing guidelines. A proviso in a
grant proposals to achieve more
House of Representatives bill would require the commandant of the Coast Guard to
effective, better coordinated results.”
give a written opinion on the effects on navigation.
E-mail: susdev@gate.net
A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found that there
can be particularly significant windmill impact on birds and bats. While not a large Awards
number of birds are killed, said the agency, more research is needed on bats, which
seem particularly vulnerable on nights with low wind when mosquito traffic A surprise winner of a $500,000
increases. “genius” award from the John D. and
Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is
The Natural Resources Defense Council’s On Earth magazine, noting the Stonington, ME fisherman and lobster
contrast between widespread use of offshore wind farms in Europe and the fact researcher Ted Ames, 66. A
that in the US “not a single megawatt of wind energy is produced offshore,” lobsterman who began working out of
stresses the need for federal government leadership: “In leading European coun- Vinalhaven island before his age even
tries such as Germany and Denmark, public acceptance of offshore wind farms has reached double digits, Ames earned
gone hand in hand with strong governmental support for the technology. Advo- enough from fishing to make his way
cates in the United States face the much tougher challenge of educating communi- through to a masters’ degree in
ties about the benefits of offshore wind power—and doing so before people see the biochemistry from the University of
turbine blades spinning in full view of their favorite beach.” Maine. Later he worked at the
4
Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor,
taught chemistry to high school
students, used navigation software to
track fish spawning grounds as stocks Publications
began to disappear, founded a lobster
hatchery, and despite a near-fatal z On December 6, 1917, the munitions-laden vessel Mont Blanc collided with
auto accident still found time to haul a another Europe-bound ship in the crowded Narrows of Halifax harbor and eventu-
few pots. Folks around Stonington ally, ablaze, grounded. Ensuing explosions flattened much of the city and killed
harbor, reported the Boston Globe, 1,600 people. In her book Curse of the Narrows (Walker & Company 2005) author
estimate that the MacArthur money Laura M. Mac Donald offers what the New York Times called “a detailed, often
“works out to about 50 cents for each wrenching account” of the disaster and its aftermath.
meeting Ames has attended over the
years.” z The Edge of Maine, by novelist Geoffrey Wolff (National Geographic
Society 2005) ranges widely along the state’s craggy coastline with reflections on
Among this year’s top prizewinners history, rusticators, watermen, and the new class of billionaire summer folk.
from the Society of Environmental Especially interesting are references to the ice trade (big business in the 19th
Journalists are Barbara Noyes Pulling, century), and to environmental protection efforts in the context of helter-skelter
Michael McDade and Caleb Crosby of development.
Maine Public Broadcasting. They
were awarded first place in the z Newly available from Woods Hole Sea Grant is the DVD, Shellfish Aquac-
“Outstanding Television Reporting, ulture: Tools, Tips. And Techniques. The disk offers a general introduction to
Small Market” category for “Quest: methods of shellfish farming used on Cape Cod, highlighting what are described as
Aquaculture, Down on the Salmon “innovations and tricks of the trade.” E-mail seagrant@whoi.edu
Farm,” their series about the eco-
nomic promise and environmental
perils of fish farming.
Sonar Testing Steams Ahead
Species & Habitats
Damn the torpedoes, says the US Navy, announcing plans to develop a
Fired or steamed, the roe of the white $99 million, 500 square mile sonar testing range off the coast of North Carolina
sea urchin (Tripneustes ventricosus) is despite accumulated evidence of harm to whales and dolphins from underwater
such a delicacy in Barbados that half a sound blasts.
pint of it fetches a black-market price
of up to $50. But overharvesting, At risk of harm are many species of dolphins as well as humpback, sperm
poaching during closed seasons, and and highly endangered right whales, of which only 300-350 remain alive. The use of
the arrival of a mysterious disease sonar equipment is listed as a possible cause of many fatal marine mammal
that turns the roe from golden to beachings, including several recent ones along the North Carolina coast.
black, have depleted the populations
in shallow waters around the island. Among environmental groups opposing active sonar testing without
Authorities, fearing extinction if careful precautions is the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). It claims that
poachers continue to plunder young mid-frequency sonar, for which the range off North Carolina would be designed,
and spawning sea eggs, have can- “can emit continuous sound well above 235 decibels, an intensity roughly compa-
celled this year’s season and fully shut rable to a Saturn V rocket at liftoff. Marine mammals have extraordinarily sensitive
down the legal fishery until Septem- hearing, and there is no scientific dispute that intense sonar blasts can disturb,
ber 30, 2006. Said Erskine Griffith, injure, and even kill them.”
agriculture and rural development
minister: “If we allow the young ones A lawsuit recently filed by NRDC and other environmental groups, alleging
to develop, I believe we can get back a that the Navy’s use of mid-frequency sonar violates several laws, asks that the
good sea egg stock.” Navy take “common sense precautions” to avoid harming marine mammals while
using it. These would include avoiding migration routes, listening with passive sonar
Confirming prior reports of record for whale noises, and curtailing active sonar drills when their presence is detected.
oxygen deprivation in the Chesapeake
Bay, the federally-funded Chespeake For its part, the Navy told The Washington Post that most of the sonar
Bay Program stated that an average noise off North Carolina would fall into the “non-injurious” category and that
5% of it was “anoxic” last summer, or overall its use of sonar there would have a “negligible impact on marine mam-
almost entirely without the oxygen on mals.” It argued that sonar testing in the coastal zone is important because the
which fish, crabs and oysters depend. threat from invasive submarines is greatest there. Said the Post: “The global
This was the worst result in 21 years spread of quiet and relatively low-cost diesel submarines has alarmed the Navy
of monitoring. Program spokesman and convinced officials that its sailors need more training in detecting hostile subs in
Chris Conner attributed the outcome canyons and ocean beds closer to shore.”
to excessive pollution from farms and
other sources and a hot August with The Navy has released a draft environmental impact statement on the
little wind. William C. Baker, project and will soon inaugurate a public comment period.
5
president of the Chesapeake
Bay Foundation, called on Maryland to
accelerate its efforts to control
Thumbs Up for Pumping Out polluted farm runoff by budgeting
$100 million a year to enroll farmers
It wasn’t that many years ago when many boaters, with a wink and a nod in conservation programs.
at their onboard holding tanks, still flushed untreated waste from their heads
directly overboard while at the mooring or barely underway. It was just too much The return of the black bear to many
of a bother to use not easily accessible pumpout services. parts of crowded New Jersey has had
surprising consequences for Vernon
But times change reports the Connecticut Post, with improved technolo- homeowners Cheryl and David
gies and the increasing convenience of pump-out stations or boats. The number of Kretzchmar, reported the Asbury Park
them in Connecticut has tripled since 1993, and the charge varies from zero to $5. Press. Bear visits to their backyard
At workshops recently run by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection pond had occurred occasionally
(DEP) to study the feasibility of a sewage discharge ban for all coastal waters in the before, resulting in damage to lily
state, boaters in attendance showed “little resistance” to the measure. “It’s not an pads. But recently a bear went a step
imposition,” said Erickson 35 owner Dick Hayes. “Most of the people we know use further, catching and consuming one
the pump-outs.” of the couple’s koi, an expensive
Japanese fish described as a “fancy
The DEP hopes to have the discharge ban, already in place for sections of carp.” Bear attacks on koi, as well as
the coast, turn statewide by next summer. Foot-dragging boaters should be on bird feeders and on trash contain-
warned that violations carry a $2,000 civil penalty and constitute a Class A misde- ers left out for pickup, have also been
meanor criminal offense, punishable by an extra $2,000 fine and a year in prison. reported even at the state’s southern
tip. No easy solution is at hand.

Roosevelt Island Flap The longleaf pine, long used for


turpentine and sturdy timber and
home to many threatened plants and
Tongue perhaps in cheek, California Representative Richard Pombo, who animals, was long a staple of the
chairs the House Resources Committee, recently circulated a draft bill calling for southeast US forest, covering 92
the sale of 16 national park properties to developers and oil and gas interests. million acres. Now not frequently
According to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) the properties planted because it grows slowly, the
on Pombo’s trading block represent about 23% of all lands in the hands of the tree covers only 3 million acres and
National Park Service. Among them: Roosevelt Island on the Potomac in Arlington, may disappear entirely from parts of
Virginia, a strategically located property named for Theodore Roosevelt, the father South Carolina, Associated Press
of conservation in the US, that would be changed from shorebird and wildfowl reports. Forest conservationist Bob
habitat into luxury homes and shopping strips. Franklin, at the Clemson Extension
Service, is struggling to save what’s
Staffers claimed that they never intended the list to go public. It was left and educate the public about the
intended, they told the San Francisco Chronicle, “only to influence lawmakers to importance of a long-valued tree
support an item in the budget bill that would permit oil drilling in the Arctic National species.
Wildlife Refuge.” Revenues from selling the selected properties, plus sales of
naming opportunities involving other locations in the park system, would equal the
Restorations
expected $2.4 billion that would be earned over 5 years from oil lease sales in the
refuge.
After years of foot dragging and three
decades since toxic polychlorinated
But if the Pombo people viewed the proposal as no more than a “theoreti-
byphenyls (PCBs) the company had
cal exercise” or “conversation starter,” others took it dead seriously. Righteous
dumped were discovered in the upper
indignation spewed forth from the Sierra Club as well as from NPCA and elsewhere
Hudson River, GE has at last agreed to
in the environmental community. District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes
begin dredging them out in early 2007.
Norton expressed concern. Virginia Representative James P. Moran, Jr., who
Phase 1, to which the company is now
represents Arlington, promised that Congress would never allow the island to be
firmly pledged, will cost $100 million
sold off, adding that the proposal was “probably a scare tactic.” But, he told The
to $150 million, says the New York
Washington Post, if Pombo “could get away with it he would.”
Times, and last about 6 years. It will
remove about 10% of the PCBs. Once
As Pombo faced what the Post called the “uproar” over Roosevelt Island,
that phase is completed, the company
he continued his controversial efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act. He
said it would reach a decision as to
also faced charges from the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity that he “may have
whether to proceed to a $500 million,
broken the law by not paying taxes on foreign trips paid for by a shadowy private
5 year Phase 2 effort. Environmental-
foundation.” This group, the International Foundation for the Conservation of
ists complained that the company had
Natural Resources, was said to have paid Pombo more than $23,000 to attend
still not made a full commitment. They
whaling conferences in Japan and New Zealand. Major donors to the foundation
warned that it might try to wriggle out
include food companies, the Japan Whaling Association, the National Trappers
of Phase 2 by claiming, as it often has
Association, and the International Fur Trade Association.
6
in the past, that dredging does not
work and using Phase I’s results as
evidence. “Exactly what we would
expect,” said Rich Schiafo at Scenic Ford Plant Clean-Up
Hudson. “A lack of commitment to
cleaning up their mess.” In a recent five-part series, the outraged Bergen Record outlined “how
hazardous waste from Ford’s former Mahwah plant is wreaking havoc on the
Last summer a Boston Whaler environment years after it was supposed to have been cleaned up.” Over 25
belonging to New York’s Department years, until the plant closed in 1980, Ford built 6 million vehicles at Mahwah, New
of Environmental Conservation spent Jersey and “generated an ocean of hazardous waste” including “toxic paint sludge
much time whizzing about the Hudson laced with lead, volatile organic compounds and other dangerous chemicals.”
River. Aboard were researchers Children in one affected community, continued the paper, “used to take discarded
listening via hydrophones for “pings” car hoods and slide down the artificial hillsides of sludge, then return with nose-
from battery powered sonic “tags” bleeds—a typical symptom of chromium poisoning.”
that had been attached to 9 wild and
25 hatchery-raised Atlantic sturgeon. Large amounts of the Ford wastes still lie buried in the Ramapo mountains
These and 121 other sturgeon had and are leaching into groundwater, the paper contended, despite a federal
also been equipped with external Superfund designation and 4 cleanup efforts that failed. “It is long past time for a
identification tags advising anyone federal criminal investigation into the sludge dumping and puny cleanup efforts,”
finding the fish about how to report said the Record, which also called on local legislators to press EPA to “bring about a
them. These efforts are the latest in a real cleanup effort.”
long struggle to bring the impressive
Atlantic sturgeon, an ancient migra-
tory species that can reach 10 feet in
length and was once heavily fished,
Maine Lobster Heists
back from severe depletion in the
river. The data will provide new Maine coast lobstermen, already beset by a low catch this year after 15
insight into the movements of the years of abundance during which the harvest tripled, were rocked even harder by a
species, about which little has been series of nighttime thefts on the wharves. Thieves made off with some $17,000
learned since the commercial Hudson worth in separate attacks along the southern Maine coast from Cundy’s Harbor to
fishery was shut down in the mid- South Harpswell.
1990s. The hope is to recover from
what Fran Dunwell, director of the After what seemed to many lobstermen to be too long a pause, police
Hudson River Estuary Program, arrested two suspects, both local clam-diggers whose activities had been ham-
characterizes as a “crisis” and reopen pered by persistent red tides that had shut down some of the beds. Receipts
the fishery. Every bit of new knowl- obtained from a dealer, police Lieutenant Jonathan Cornish told The Washington
edge about the species’ habits and Post, enabled him to “prove they had possession of lobsters.”
movements helps. “If you do it right,”
she said in a recent interview with the Shocked fishermen in the affected communities, who tend to trust one
Poughkeepsie Journal, “the fish come another, began deploying vigilante patrols on the wharves and threatening even
back better than before.” tougher action. Warned wharf owner Sheldon Morse, whose facility took one of the
biggest hits: “I live about 300 yards from the wharf, within rifle range.”
Reports

It was another good spawning year for Oysters, Continued from p. 1


rockfish (striped bass) in the Chesa-
peake Bay, says Maryland’s Depart- Even within the Chesapeake region, grower Richard Pelz raises native
ment of Natural Resources. An oysters on strings; they reach maturity more quickly than those attached to
average of 17.8 juvenile rock were traditional beds and are harvested before the fatal diseases attack them. Their
counted in 132 samples taken at 22 filtering capability has done much to clean up Pelz’s operating base, St. Jerome
locations around the Bay, vs. an Creek near Point Lookout.
average of 12 fish since the annual
survey was launched in 1954. But Such growers worry about the inflexibility of the endangered species or
while rockfish remain abundant even a “threatened” designation, which could end all harvesting of any sort and
throughout the Bay, an alarming perhaps shut down many restoration projects now under way. Others express
number of them are lean and sickly concern about citizen reactions to consuming an endangered species. A prelimi-
when caught, in part because of a nary NMFS decision about the listing is expected in January; final action could take
disease called microbacteriosis and in two years.
part because of a worrisome shortage
of menhaden, an overharvested Meantime, some states such as North Carolina (see Sayings, page 2) are
species of herring that forms a large taking constructive oyster protection and restoration actions, and backing up their
part of the stripers’ usual diet. statements with real dollars.
7
Another looming threat to the Chesa-
peake area comes from the toothy
northern snakehead, an invasive
Era Ending, Continued from p. 1 species from northern China that
walks on its fins and can survive on
• With insurance companies facing at least $44 billion in Katrina and Rita land for up to three days. Mighty
losses, reports The Washington Post, they are beginning to look seriously at the efforts to eradicate the so-called
whole question of climate change and the need to support programs that curb “Frankenfish,” which may originally
greenhouse emissions. Rumors also swirl about sharp rate rises in vulnerable have escaped into the wild from a
coastal areas and even about the outright denial of coverage in some of them. household aquarium, have come to
naught: hundreds of them have
• The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association calls not for less recently been reported in various Bay
beach replenishment but for more. But other traditional advocates of beach tributaries. A freshwater species, the
replenishment and other post-storm restoration initiatives have begun to question snakehead poses no immediate
the desirability of public subsidies for these. Among them, says the New York hazards for the saline Chesapeake
Times, is Marlowe & Company, a firm that has long lobbied for such measures but Bay itself. But it has no natural
now wonders “what can be done to make sure more people do not put themselves predators and will compete for food
in harm’s way.” And, continued the paper, hurricane researcher Robert S. Young with rockfish and other native species.
of Western Carolina University, thinks that a national commission, similar to those
formed to recommend military base closures, should survey the field and designate Products
“sections of shoreline that are clearly so vulnerable to storm damage that they
should no longer receive any federal subsidy of infrastructure building” or qualify
for federal flood insurance. Already, estimates the Heinz Center, insurance subsi- Excessive acidity in river water, such
dies have increased shoreline housing density by 15%. as that resulting from acid rain,
sharply affects the ability of belea-
Citizens of Topsail Island, North Carolina, whose frequently-battered guered Atlantic salmon to reproduce.
oceanfront took a new pounding from this year’s Hurricane Ophelia, wonder At a Ph level of 5.5, reproduction
whether to spend millions on a comprehensive beach nourishment effort. “I guess begins to fail. At 4.6 or below it drops
you can go to the age-old question,” mused North Topsail Beach town manager to nil. Adding lime to the water raises
Thomas Cassell in a Charlotte Observer interview. “Should we be out here to begin the Ph readings to the point where the
with?” Veteran coastal geologist Orrin H. Pilkey Jr. of Duke University, told the fish can once again thrive. In
Baltimore Sun that he has no doubt about the answer: “We need to get out of Scandanavia, this has long been done
there,” he said, “Or at the very least, we need to get the federal government out of manually. Now Norway’s Miljokalk
there.” Whether the feds will listen, or whether citizens will slow their relentless company has produced an automated
march to the shoreline, remain open questions. “lime doser” system in which river
water is drawn into a mixer, combined
with powdered limestone, and
released downstream. The first North
BRAC Lowers Boom American installation of the doser,
programmed to maintain a constant
The federal Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) Ph level of 5.5, began functioning in
ruled in August that Virginia Beach would either have to condemn homes in the September on the West River near
riskiest “Accident Potential Zone” near the Oceana Naval Air Station, or face the Sheet Harbour, NS. Bill Taylor,
transfer of 244 jet planes and some 12,000 jobs to Cecil Field in Florida. president of the International Atlantic
Salmon Federation, while deploring
Steamed citizens, reported the Virginian-Pilot, reacted sharply in crowded the lack of Government of Canada
town meetings and media interviews. Some noted that among the neighborhoods support for the project, praised the
in jeopardy were many that long predated the arrival of powerful F/A-18 Hornet community volunteers and corporate
jets at the base in 1998, and in some instances even the opening of the air station in sponsors who made it possible. He
1952, and the Navy’s most recent expansions of the danger zone. Others, espe- and others noted “enormous possibili-
cially those living on fixed incomes for whom a move would mean financial hard- ties” for the technology in eastern
ship, expressed fatalistic views and their willingness to accept the possibility of a North America.
crash. Retired Navy pilot David Gracie, a homeowner since 1973 within the top-
grade Accident Potential Zone, told the paper that the BRAC ultimatum would
Dreams about using tidal currents to
“breed anarchy,” and that “It’s just not American, and it’s not right.”
drive turbines and generate power
are nothing new, but the technology
For their part, town officials wondered how to get along with the core torn
has improved. An older system
out of Oceana, now its largest employer and the Navy’s principal east coast air
operating in Annapolis, Nova Scotia,
base. They bridled at the $400 million-plus cost of condemning and buying some
which requires a dam to hold back
3,400 homes in the highest-danger zone and coping with business losses . And they
tidal water, serves 4,000 customers.
expressed sympathy with potentially displaced citizens. A report on the costs of
Now Nova Scotia Power Inc., a private
complying with the BRAC, is due out shortly. Unless the US Congress overrules the
company, has become interested in
BRAC on the issue, Virginia Beach has until March 1 to decide what to do.
deploying a new British technology
Atlantic CoastWatch
Sustainable Development Institute
3121 South St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20007

Tel: (202) 338-1017


Fax: (202) 337-9639
E-mail: susdev@igc.org
URL: www.susdev.org
www.atlanticcoastwatch.org

Tax-deductible contributions for Atlantic CoastWatch are urgently needed.

using large turbines anchored to the


seafloor. These, reports the Boston
Globe, require no dam and do not
Caribbean Reef Crisis
involved the accompanying environ-
mental problems or hazards. With Capping a long litany of negative reports about the decline of coral reefs in
neighboring New Brunswick and 5 US the Caribbean, some 80% of which have disappeared over the last three decades,
states as partners, Nova Scotia has scientists are coming up with new very bad news. “The extremely warm ocean
commissioned California’s Electric waters fueling this season’s record hurricane season,” says the Los Angeles Times,
Power Research Institute to study “are stressing coral reefs throughout the Caribbean and may kill 80% to 90% of the
possible underwater turbine test structures in some areas.”
sites. One such is a channel with
currents racing up to 15 km per hour. Record levels of lethal bleaching are being recorded across a broad belt
from the Florida Keys to Puerto Rico and Panama. Puerto Rican scientists reported up
to 95% losses in local waters, and 70% of reefs in Grenada. According to Alan
Funding
Strong, coordinator of the Coral Reef Watch program at NOAA, this year’s wide-
spread losses are resulting not just because of unusually warm sea temperatures, but
The recent runup in gasoline prices
also because they have lasted for 15 weeks.
has triggered an unusual reaction in
West Palm Beach, where environ-
Strong and other scientists scrambled for language strong enough to
mental leaders are searching for
characterize the situation’s severity. “These levels are like nothing we’ve ever seen,”
funds to complete a $13.4 million
Strong told the Times. “It’s twice the normal stress that we’ve ever seen for corals.
building project at the 20 square mile
We are talking extremely high percentage of bleaching and what seems to be
Grassy Waters Preserve. Fund-
extreme mortality.” Drew Harvell of Cornell University called it “the biggest bleach-
raisers for the project have, reports
ing event ever recorded in the Caribbean.”
the Sun-Sentinel, launched the “2000
Gallons of Gas Extravaganza.” The
Though “reefs can recover from bleaching over several decades if they are
lucky winner of the $10 a ticket raffle
colonized by larvae from undamaged corals nearby,” the Times continued, “repeated
will be able to pick up the big prize,
stresses from warming and other environmental assaults” can kill them for good.
good for a year, at either of two filling
“Often but not always (we still do not understand exactly why), corals will regenerate
stations in the region. Said ticket
quickly in the following years,” Strong adds, stressing the need to get researchers in
seller Claudine Laabs, president of
the field to study resilience. “I would simply state that mortality will be significant for
the Audubon Society of the Ever-
the moment. It depends on recruitment and location, connectivity, currents, etc.” But,
glades: “It is possibly a little contro-
he says, “This year’s event has many of us very concerned in the coral community.”
versial, but I think it’s kind of smart to
Concluded coral reef expert Nancy Knowlton at the Scripps Institution of Oceano-
offer what people really need.”
graphy: “We may be witnessing the rapid loss of much of what remains.”