Volume XI, Issue 24 ~ June 12-18, 2003

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Burton on the Bay | Chesapeake Outdoors | Sky Watch | Tidelog
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Chesapeake Outdoors by C. D. Dollar

Excuses Won’t Win the Race to Save Our Environment

If our Bay leaders need inspiration to muster the will to fix the Chesapeake’s ills, they’d do well to draw on the courage of some competitors in the Eagleman Triathlon, held in Cambridge June 8. The half-ironman coursed through Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, a great wilderness area of which we have far too few.

Several competitors in the combination 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13-mile run were physically challenged. As I wheezed my way through the course, a man with two prosthetic lower legs roared past me like I was waiting for a bus. (I finished, but only because I couldn’t bear to lose to the guy ahead of me talking on his cell phone.)

Failure isn’t an option for these folk, who don’t bother with excuses. The same can’t always be said for recent leaders in protecting and restoring our environment.

A recent Environmental Protection Agency internal study says one-quarter of the nation’s largest industrial plants and water treatment facilities seriously violate our pollution standards. Yet few get taken to task, and of those that do fewer than half get fined — a meager $6,000 on average. The findings support the notion that some big polluters find it cheaper to trash the air and water and pay the fines than to comply.

There are other vexing problems facing our natural resources, including the decline of horseshoe crabs, which threatens migrating shorebirds. The birds depend on the crab eggs for the fuel to make it back to their breeding grounds.

Two global reports paint a bleak picture of our coastal and ocean resources. A 10-year study released in last month’s Nature says 90 percent of all large ocean fish are gone. Ocean giants such as tuna, marlin and the large ground fish (cod, halibut and flounder) are in imminent danger of collapse. Says lead author Ransom Myers, “We are in massive denial and continue to bicker over the last shrinking numbers of survivors … Industrial fishing has scoured the global ocean. There is no blue frontier left.”

These disturbing findings were echoed by the three-year study released by the bipartisan Pew Oceans Commission, which found that “overfishing is the primary factor in deterioration of coastal ecosystems worldwide.” The commission’s report — full of information on the deteriorating U.S. coastal systems due to development and pollution — is sobering.

It found that 41 percent of all federally managed fish in U.S. oceans are overfished or are in jeopardy from overfishing. Each year, the world’s commercial fishermen toss overboard as by-catch 20 million metric tons of fish. Gulf of Mexico shrimping wastes four pounds of finfish for every pound of shrimp.

We’ve seen some progress, but we’ve made a mess of our natural resources, here at home and across the globe. We can start to repair the damage here at home; we know the problems. The Chesapeake Bay Commission projects the cost of meeting Chesapeake 2000 goals by 2010 at $18.7 billion. To date, the Bay states and federal ante is only $5.9 billion.

Bay leaders should follow the example of those inspiring Eagleman competitors and just get it done.

Fish Are Biting
Plenty of croakers at night at the Gooses. Chumming produces small keeper rockfish at The Hill, Bay Bridge pilings, and False Channel. No good signs of bluefish, black drum (they might not make it up here) or sea trout.



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Last updated June 12, 2003 @ 1:22am