Volume 16, Issue 31 - July 31 - August 6, 2008

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Keep Alien Invaders Away —
And Speak Plain English

You wonder sometimes what Maryland does with all that tax money we send our comptroller.

Occasionally we hear it’s being spent right, which is the case with a new research effort to combat the invasive species that increasingly plague Chesapeake Bay.

We’ve seen creatures from oyster-killing MSX to the Chinese mitten crab arrive here — more than 150 exotic species and microscopic terrorists all told — often in the ballast water of international ships plying our waters.

Now, at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Solomons, a new Maritime Environmental Resource Center will have the mission of confronting the sins of shipping visited on our Bay and coastal ecosystems.

According to the plan, the center will receive about $5 million over the next five years from state and federal sources.

The center will be working with the Coast Guard to devise better methods to stop the invaders and, hopefully, putting to work some of the knowledge built up over the years at the Marine Invasions Lab at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater.

As it stands, arriving ships are required to dump their port-of-origin ballast water in the ocean and replace it with ocean water. (Ballast water in the hull of a ship lends stability.) Salt water is believed to kill many — but not all — freshwater organisms that swam aboard at the last port. The growing problem has triggered action in Congress, but there’s been no agreement yet on legislation to require stricter rules for treating ballast water.

We support the new center, but it’s occurred to us that it might be in need of a snippet of advice after we read this sentence on its web site: “The Chesapeake also offers waters with naturally abundant and taxonomically diverse planktonic organisms that would allow for the appropriate quantification of system biological efficacy.”

Say what? Our advice would be to communicate clearly with us Bay-loving regular folk who might be quite interested in a mission to protect the Chesapeake from harmful hitchhikers. This is a battle people might want to join.

Besides, we’re picking up the tab.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.