Troubled Waters: Chesapeake Bay and Beyond - Oceana USA
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2006-02-23 00:00:00

Troubled Waters: Chesapeake Bay and Beyond


My love of the ocean comes from my family: my grandmother, who would take me shelling in Florida, and my father and brother, avid sailors of the Chesapeake Bay. The oft copied “Save the Bay” campaign was launched the year I was born, and in those 38 years the amount of trash and raw sewage flowing into the Chesapeake and its tributaries has been reduced.

But despite such gains, the Chesapeake, its fish and fowl, face new threats: fertilizer runoff, a fish-killing microorganism associated with chicken and hog farms, an invasive parasite that may be behind the decimation of Bay oysters.
The Bay’s problems are being replicated all over the world. But though the indicators of marine health have become more alarming, it is easy enough to miss the connection between disparate newspaper accounts of pollution, overfishing, global warming, dead zones, reef  bleaching and the like. Step back from the dots and the larger picture comes into focus, and it’s a scary one indeed.

In assigning the series of stories that makes up Mother Jones‘ Fate of the Oceans package, I hoped to provide the general public with such an overview. But even I was not prepared for what the writers turned in.

Humans are attacking the ocean and its food web on every level, ignorant of the interdependence between krill – now overfished to provide food to farmed fish – and penguins and whales, or the connection between global warming and changing pH levels of the ocean, which threaten to kill off plankton, the backbone of the marine food web.

Will our children’s generation be the last to eat wild fish, snorkel over living reefs, or see polar bears outside of a zoo? Now that I truly see the larger picture, I fear it is all too likely.