water

Massive oyster die-offs in Chesapeake Bay leave watermen jobless, local economy in shambles

Friday, November 11, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: oysters, die-off, health news

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(NaturalNews) Tack it on to the growing list of mysterious animal die-offs. Watermen working the oyster fishing business in the Maryland portion of Chesapeake Bay say the massive die-off of oysters in the area this year is due to recent hurricanes and tropical storms that have swept fresh water and debris into bay waters, but authorities are still investigating the situation.

CBS 13 in Baltimore reports that this year's oyster season has been one of the worst ever, as many portions of Chesapeake Bay have become literal oyster graveyards. Some areas are so bad, in fact, that watermen working the waters have been unable to find a single live oyster.

"Some of the bars were 100 percent dead," said Barry Sweitzer, a waterman, to CBS 13. "We didn't find a live oyster at all."

Oysters need salt water in order to survive, but the massive outflow of fresh water into the bay following Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee has created conditions where oysters were unable to survive, say some. Add to that a plethora of waste and other material runoff, and the situation becomes even more dire.

As a result, Sweitzer and several other watermen are having to sell their boats and equipment, and to leave the business altogether -- there simply is no way for them to make a living when the vast majority of the oyster crop in the area appears to have died.

"I don't have any other choice," said Sweitzer, who has had to sell his boat that has supported his family for 64 years. "Logistically, I can't work the lower bay (where more oysters are said to be alive). It's just too far away."

According to The Capital, state biologists believe that record levels of fresh water produced by spring and summer storms, rather than the tropical storm and hurricane, are responsible for killing off the oysters, many of which have allegedly been dead for a long time. Among those that have been found alive, however, many appeared "bloated, watery and translucent," which could indicate other causes.

Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Waterman's Association, told the Baltimore Sun that 95 to 100 percent of oysters on the western shore north of the Bay Bridge have been reported to be dead (http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-11-08/...).

Sources for this article include:

http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2011/11/07/som...

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