Life in the Ocean

Question 1: Parts of Chesapeake Bay were affected by unexpected blooms of a toxic dinoflagellate, Pfisteria piscicida, in 1997. Research those occurrences in the internet, and discuss the blooms and their effects on the local economy. Was it sensationalist press coverage, or a real danger to humans?

Ans.: During the summer of 1997, the Chesapeake Bay was reported to have an unexpected bloom of the plankton, Pfisteria piscicida. Experts believed that it was caused by too much pollution from the surrounding districts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Farms, factories, and towns contribute to the pollution. According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, 318 million pounds of nitrogen and 19 million pounds of phosphorus are deposited into the Bay as the result of development, run-off, and air pollutants. Agriculture and poultry operations constitute a large part of the causes of pollution of the Bay. The presence of these pollutants at high concentrations triggered the pfisteria bloom, the result of which was devastating. Thousands of fishes were killed rendering massive losses in the local economy, i.e. seafood sales drop. Maryland alone had lost $43 million in sales. Many people were sick due to the toxins taken from the Bay products which increased expenditure in healthcare and medicine.

Pfisteria bloom in the Chesapeake Bay posed a threat to humans as well as other organisms. In Maryland, environmentalists are making some steps to minimize pollution of the Bay. The US government had spent millions of dollars in trying to eradicate the cause of such phenomena.

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Ans.: Human activities have substantial effects to the marine environment, especially the marine mammals. Activities like that cause loud underwater noise, deep-water gillnetting and driftnet fishing, pollution, whaling, large-scale industrial fishing, vessel traffic as well as activities like whale-watching, whale-petting, or simply interacting with the marine mammals have deleterious effects to them. The immediate effect of these interactions to the marine mammals is disturbance.

Whale-watchers observed that whales are becoming more difficult to search in the open seas because of changes of areas and modes of operation as the result of these disturbances. Visual and acoustic surveys proved that whales are susceptible to acoustic changes, i.e. sound of the vessel engine, as it is there primary mode of communication. Whales and other marine mammals use echolocation in searching for food and other activities (i.e. mating, social contact). Noise from tour boats disrupts the sound signals transmitted and received thereby affecting their senses. This resulted to decline in whale population and other marine mammals. Research also showed that the presence of tour boats in their surroundings causes stress which affects their behavior.

Question 3. What fish and shellfish populations are at or below historic levels? What restoration efforts are being revised to manage the most important fisheries more effectively? Discuss these and other issues affecting marine resources RIGHT HERE in Maryland.

Ans.: Chesapeake Bay fish and shellfish populations are largely affected by pollution from the surrounding states. Blue crab, oyster, striped bass, Susquehanna shad, and menhaden are some of the species studied. Different strategies used to increase harvest were examined by scientists and natural resource managers. The American shad and the blue crab were found to have increased over the past decade and are no longer below historic levels.

This increase was attributed to the responsible fisheries management. Current reports have shown that the Bay’s fish and shellfish are three-fifths away from the desired levels. In this regard, scientists and managers are trying their best to restore the Bay’s abundant estuarine ecosystem. The restoration efforts include the following activities and plans: reducing pollution, maintain restoring habits, responsible fisheries management, watershed protection, and fostering stewardship. Pollution, as the primary cause of death of estuarine species was tackled by different states by enforcing laws that protects the Bay area from ruthless throwing of waste matter, i.e. increasing taxation of industry-scale poultry operations in Maryland.

Spotts, P.N. (1997). US Pours Money, Expertise into Halting Legal ‘Blooms’ [Electronic Version]. Christian Science Monitor, 10/08/97(United States), 3. Retrieved April 22, 2007, from

Goodman, P.S. (1998). Ma., Va. Brace for Pfiesteria Outbreaks. The Washington Post, April 5, 1998.

Lauhakangas, R. (n.d.). Special Aspects of Sperm Whales and Their Relevance to Whale Watching. Retrieved April 22, 2007, from

Stiffler, L. (2002). Whale-watchers Might be Harmful to Orcas, Study Shows. Retrieved April 22, 2007, from

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