Can the Chesapeake Bay (and its Signature Blue Crabs) Recover?

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 26, 2015   View Article

Blue crab season in the Chesapeake Bay is just around the corner. To fill his coffers between now and then, third-generation Virginia waterman J.C. Hudgins is fishing for menhaden, a type of fish used for bait. What he’s seen in recent days comes as good news: clear water to a depth of eight feet.

“Ten years past, you couldn’t do that,” he said. “And so you know the water quality has improved considerably.”

The Chesapeake Bay is a 200-mile long estuary that runs from Havre de Grace, Maryland, to Norfolk, Virginia and is fed with waters streaming in from a 64,000-square-mile watershed that includes portions of six states and the District of Columbia.

Until recently, the bay was choked with nutrients and sediment spilling in from the 17 million people that call the watershed home.

As Ocean Becomes Killing Field, Fish We Eat Dwindle

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 3, 2015   View Article

Over the past century, the biomass of predatory fish in the world’s oceans has declined by about two thirds, according to fisheries scientists. In the voids left by the cod, halibut, salmon, and tuna are increasing populations of forage fish, which are short-lived and vulnerable to environmental change such as ocean waters that are warming and becoming more acidic in response to global climate change.

“What this doesn’t boil down to is the sea is suddenly full of sardines and anchovies and other small things that we like to eat,” Villy Christensen, an ecosystem modeler at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, said. “It is to a large extent small fish that we don’t eat that have benefited; because sardines and anchovies, those are fisheries … we keep fishing those.”

Climate Warming Driving Native Trout to Extinction, Study Says

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 25, 2014   View Article

Montana fly fishing guide and shop owner Jason Lanier hooks a feisty rainbow trout almost every day he hits the waters in the lower valley of the Flathead River system. From an angler’s perspective, the catch is a thrill. Rainbows put up a good fight, much better than the one offered by the state’s native westslope cutthroat trout.

“And cutthroats that have some rainbow genetics in them typically fight harder for sure,” the owner of the Bigfork Anglers Fly Shop told NBC News.

About 20 million rainbows were stocked in the river system that spans Montana and southern British Columbia, Canada, from the late 1800s to 1969. The fish can, and do, mate with cutthroats. This hybridization may drive the genetically pure natives to extinction, according to Clint Muhlfeld, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in West Glacier, Mont.

What’s more, climate change is accelerating the hybridization process, according to new research led by Muhlfeld. “This is the first example we are aware of that has shown how invasive hybridization has probably spread due to climate warming,” he told NBC News.

Some Corals May Be Resistant to Climate Change, Researchers Say

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 24, 2014   View Article

A new study on how coral reacts to global climate change has some researchers optimistic that at least a few of the polychromatic reefs crucial to underwater ecosystems may be better able to adjust to a warming world than was previously thought.

That’s good news, given that coral reefs soften the blow of storms headed to areas where people live, and nurture a kaleidoscopic array of fish that provide a livelihood and food for people around the globe.

But coral reefs aren’t out of hot water yet.

Fish-Friendly Dams? Scientists Race to Reduce Turbine Trauma

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 14, 2014   View Article

A hydroelectric dam building boom in the Pacific Northwest in the past century drove dozens of salmon runs to extinction and has cost taxpayers billions of dollars to try to save the fish that remain. Today, scientists from the region are hard at work to prevent a repeat of history at a time when countries around the world race to wring more energy from rivers to fuel a power hungry and warming planet.

“We’ve made some pretty good progress here in the Pacific Northwest on determining criteria that can help keep fish safe,” Richard Brown, a senior research scientist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., told NBC News.

Google Earth spies unreported fish traps, study reveals

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 26, 2013   View Article

Fishing traps known as weirs that jut from coastlines may be snaring six times more fish in the Persian Gulf than what is officially reported, according to a new estimate based, in part, on satellite imagery available through Google Earth.

Scientists turned to the Internet search giant’s mapping tool as a way to cross-check catch data reported to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization by six countries in the gulf, a region of the world where marine ecosystems are understudied.

Cold-water fish food not adapting to a warming world, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 21, 2013   View Article

Tiny sea creatures that play a big role in the ocean food chain are unable to adapt to warming oceans, according to a new study that may have profound ramifications for fisheries.

The cold-water plankton lives for one year or less. Researchers examined a 50-year dataset from the North Atlantic to determine how this creature and another plankton that thrives in warmer water fared over half a century.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach