Chesapeake Bay comes some good news, som bad news...


January 13, 1993

FROM THE Chesapeake Bay comes some good news, som bad news -- and the sound of an alarm. John Page Williams, director of special field programs for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, reported recently in the Chesapeake Bay Magazine that 1992 produced "the best run of spot and summer flounder that anyone could remember. The fish were fat and beautiful, and they ranged up the main stem of the bay all the way to Baltimore, as well as deep into the tributaries."

It was not a good year for shellfish, however. Mr. Williams reports that soft clams remained scarce, and the oyster harvests continued to be "horrible."

Twenty years ago, the oyster harvest from Maryland waters exceeded a million bushels; last year it fell below 400,000.

As if that news weren't bad enough, the condition of those beautiful swimmers, the blue crabs, has become nothing short of alarming:

"Crab harvests fell to less than half those of 1991," Mr. Williams reports. "The cool spring may have affected them, and 1991 was a very strong year. Even so, there is great concern that we are pushing our beloved blue crab too hard. Even though crab catches have remained high for the last 20 years, watermen have had to work harder for what they have caught. This declining catch per unit effort is a classic warning sign of overharvest. It is too early to say that crabs are in trouble but it is certainly time for a crab management plan to limit the pressure we put on our most valuable seafood resource. As Chesapeake Bay Foundation President Will Baker is fond of saying, the cure for gluttony is not starvation; it's eating wisely."

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