Monday, June 26, 2006

Sick Clams, Sick Marshes, Eelgrass, and News from Other Estuaries

Sick clams ... Clams in Guilford have been dying from a disease called disseminated neoplasia, which newspaper accounts describe as a form a leukemia (but which can’t be transmitted to humans).

From what I can tell through a quick online search, disseminated neoplasia has been found in 15 kinds of bivalves, but around here it seems to be most prevalent in softshell clams (the kind used for steamers):

Prevalence exceeding 90% has been reported; the disease is progressive and can result in significant mortality of affected populations. Softshell clams, Mya arenaria, and mussels, Mytilus trossulus, from the east and west coasts of North America, respectively, and cockles, Cerastoderma edule, from Ireland, appear to be especially susceptible.

The same abstract says the disease seems to be transmitted virally from clam to clam, and that environmental degradation makes the situation worse (no surprise there).

Spartina and eelgrass ... I first heard about this eight or so years ago, when the salt marsh at Marshlands Conservancy, in Rye, started receding. Unfortunately marsh dieback is not confined to Rye. Also unfortunately, scientists have no idea what’s going on. That's not good news for the Spartina grasses that constitute a salt marsh's dominant vegetation or all the organisms that rely on them for food and shelter.

In Greenwich, the shellfish commission is trying to replant eelgrass, in hopes of getting scallops to grow. It’s early but the experiment doesn’t seem to be going well.

Other estuaries ... News about Long Island Sound has been so sporadic lately that I started looking elsewhere for interesting stuff. It turns out that you can fish for salmon on the Penobscot River again. And a population of short-nosed sturgeon has been discovered in the Penobscot; biologists aren’t sure if they’ve returned or if they’ve been there unnoticed all along.

See no evil ... The Marine Fish Conservation Networks’s report, “Turning a Blind Eye: The ‘See No Evil’ Approach to Wasteful Fishing,” which I wrote about earlier this month, got some play over the weekend in the Portsmouth Herald.

The network report found that there is already a lack of bycatch information. The National Marine Fisheries Service proposed to limit public access to fishery data, including bycatch data, when revising and renewing the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the primary federal law that governs our nation’s fisheries. The network will submit "Turning a Blind Eye" to members of Congress who are currently considering legislation to reauthorize this law and will urge Congress to strengthen the law to help eliminate bycatch in U.S. marine fisheries.

"It is astounding that the NMFS would propose to limit access to bycatch data," said Jan Pendlebury, N.H. representative for the National Environmental Trust. "Data is the integral component of any plan intended to help restore declining fish stocks."


Anonymous Bryan Brown said...


Here might be some LIS news to pursue: The Long Island Sound Stewardship Act of 2006 (HR 5160). It seems that the bill has excluded wetlands and lands underwater for funding consideration (the bill refers only to "uplands"). The bill introducted last year (HR 307), explicitly includes tidal and underwater lands. The explanation I've heard is that a representative in CT is responsible for the change, something having to do with protecting a local dredging project. CCE and other groups have been trying to get the language changed. I expect your LISS correspondents will have much more info on the matter.

12:28 PM  

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