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A Bay out of Balance: Smallmouth Bass ailing!

posted Apr 27, 2013, 2:39 PM by   [ updated Mar 28, 2015, 1:17 PM ]
A new report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation finds that the Smallmouth Bass, a smaller cousin to Mattawoman's famous Largemouth Bass, is ailing in numerous Chesapeake Bay tributaries due to a "perfect storm" of problems, including excess nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that weakens fish while promoting parasites. You can read the report at this CBF site.

Are Mattawoman's Largemouth Bass next?   A major interagency Task Force (summarized here) that thoroughly examined the results of Charles County's land use policies concluded:

Fisheries managers are increasingly concerned that the largemouth bass fishery in Mattawoman
Creek will decline as development increases. Limiting future suburban sprawl, redeveloping
existing areas into livable, more densely populated urban neighborhoods that absorb more people
per area, and conserving remaining natural areas and working farms are important for maintaining
Mattawoman Creek’s high quality bass fishery.

Already, scientists are reporting that the freshwater-tidal estuary is experiencing a steep drop in the number of fish species and in the abundance of species that remain. In Mattawoman's freshwater river, the springtime spawning activity of the migratory River Herring is also plummeting, by up to a factor of 100 at some sites!

The scientists link Mattawoman's problems to Charles County's land use policies, that are converting forest into polluting pavement to an unnecessary degree.  Rather than embrace the smart growth solutions proposed by the scientists and policy experts, Charles County is heading in the opposite direction by single-vote majorities on its Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners.

Read more about the connection between land use and aquatic integrity here, and under Our Issues here.