Scientists predict large “dead zone” could form in Chesapeake Bay this summer

CAMBRIDGE, Md. – Environmental scientists are concerned that a dead zone could form in the Chesapeake Bay this summer. If that happens, the price of seafood could go up in Maryland.

Jack Brooks, a partner at J.M. Clayton Co. said, “If it does create a big mortality, the death of a lot of crabs, and that creates a shortage, it’s supply and demand. It could draw the prices up.”

Ecologists with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science say we could experience a large dead zone this summer because of the heavy rainfall we experienced last fall.

Alan Girard, the Eastern Shore Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said, “A lot of rainfall like we’ve been having over the last year or two, that can bring a lot of pollution off the land into our rivers and streams that arrive in the Chesapeake Bay and that’s where you end up seeing those low oxygen problems.”

A dead zone is essentially an area of low oxygen and it’s caused by excess nutrient pollution, primarily from agriculture and wastewater.

Girard said, “All animals need oxygen to survive, so if there’s not enough oxygen in the water, you’re putting things like fish and crabs at risk.”

Brooks says crabs and fish could potentially survive a dead zone.

Brooks said,”Crabs and fish, if they sense an inhospitable environment, they can move away from it but an oyster or a clam, they’re stuck.”

But this year’s dead zone is predicted to be 2.1 cubic miles, so it may be hard for marine life to survive.

If a lot of crabs, oysters and fish are wiped out, it could have an impact on seafood lovers wallets.

Brooks said, “Dead zones aren’t good no question about it, but hopefully the impact is a minimum.”

This is predicted to be the fourth largest dead zone in the past 20 years.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will be conducting bimonthly Bay water quality monitoring cruises to track low oxygen levels.

If you want to help prevent a dead zone from forming, you’re encouraged to pick up after your pets when they go outside and to not use fertilizer if it is about to rain.

Categories: Local News, Maryland