Posts Tagged 'chesapeake bay'



Thoughtful Thursdays: Maryland Shark Fin Ban Signed Into Law!

government affairs and policy update

Governor Martin O’Malley signed a bill prohibiting the sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins into law this morning, making Maryland the first state on the East Coast to grant sharks this crucial protection.

Governor Martin O'Malley signing the shark fin ban into law.

Governor Martin O’Malley signing the shark fin ban into law.

Our home state has now joined California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington in enacting laws regarding shark finning. Perhaps most exciting of all, the state of Delaware passed similar legislation only last night and New York is poised to do the same in the coming weeks.

Maryland’s law, which will help curb the unjust killing of approximately 100 million sharks every year, was sponsored by Senator Brian Frosh and Delegate Eric Luedtke and passed by the Maryland General Assembly with bipartisan support earlier this year.

There are as many as 62 species of shark found off the Atlantic coast of North America (and 12 species found right in the Chesapeake Bay). Because they have few natural predators, are slow to mature and produce very few young, shark populations are very sensitive to environmental and commercial fishing pressures. Their continued depletion could cause irreparable damage to marine ecosystems around the world.

The National Aquarium worked closely with the bill sponsors, the Humane Society of the United States, the National Wildlife Federation, Oceana, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and recreational watermen on the issue. The new law provides exemptions for commercial and recreational fishermen, a museum, college, or university to possess a shark fin. The mid-Session addition of an amendment to exempt smooth-hound and spiny dogfish from the bill limits the impact on Maryland’s hard-working watermen yet still protects the most vulnerable families of sharks – large apex predators. The resulting legislation addresses both the supply and demand side of the market for shark fins by prohibiting the sale, trade, possession, and distribution of both raw and processed fins.

As part of our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, we take very seriously our responsibility to educate guests on the majesty and importance of sharks to the worlds’ oceans. We’d like to sincerely thank all those who showed their public support of this ban and Delegate Eric Luedtke and Senator Brian Frosh for championing this legislation through the General Assembly!

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A Blue View: Vernal Pools

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

April 17, 2013: Vernal Pools

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss what vernal pools
and the important role they play for our woodland ecosystems. 

When most of us think of aquatic ecosystems, what usually comes to mind are oceans, rivers, bays, lakes, and streams. But there is another essential body of water, one not commonly known, that provides critical habitats for many woodland animals.

Vernal pools are similar to swamps or small ponds in appearance, but there’s one key difference: They fill and dry cyclically throughout the year. These temporary woodland ponds occur in shallow depressions and typically fill in the spring and dry out during the summer only to fill once again in the fall. Small in size, usually less than an acre, vernal pools are often surrounded by woodlands.

Several species of frogs, toads, salamanders, and numerous invertebrates use these pools as their primary breeding habitat, making their role in landscapes in the northeastern United States even greater than one might expect given their small size and temporary nature.

Vernal pools usually are at their deepest in the spring, which is where these pools get their name: vernal comes from the Latin “vernus,” meaning “belonging to spring.” They fill with rainwater, snow melt, and runoff from higher areas, and though small, they are literally teeming with life. The first warm rains of March and April set off mass migrations of frogs and salamanders from the surrounding woodlands into the pools, which provide a space for all sorts of plants, insects, and other animals to grow and thrive.

Take marbled salamanders, for instance. At summer’s end, many of the vernal pools are completely dry. By the end of September, prior to the onset of fall rains, hundreds of female marbled salamanders assemble and lay up to 200 eggs in depressions under logs, vegetation, and leaves in the lower areas of a vernal pools. The eggs are guarded until rains fill the low-lying areas, and the eggs hatch soon after coming into contact with water.

Fairy shrimp eggs that have been lying dormant in the dry mud also start hatching when these pools fill with water. Species such as wood frogs and spotted salamanders almost exclusively utilize vernal pools for breeding. Even mollusks, such as fingernail clams, can be found in vernal pools, surviving by remaining dormant in pool sediment during the dry season.

This wetland-then-drought cycle means that fish and other species that depend on permanent water cannot survive, providing an ideal habitat for the aquatic larvae of insects and amphibians. Any frog or salamander that lays its eggs in a vernal pool benefits by not having its offspring eaten by fish. These species would otherwise be challenged with competition or predation from larger aquatic species. The inhabitants of these vernal pools aren’t without predators, however. In April and May, snakes, turtles, birds, and mammals visit the vernal pools to feed on amphibians and their larvae. As the year progresses other species are drawn to vernal pools as well for food, water and shelter.

In addition to the providing a diverse ecosystem for wildlife, vernal pools help to gather and hold runoff from heavy rains, serving as storage tanks and settlement ponds for areas such as the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Without vernal pools, the runoff and silt load is increased and delivered directly into larger water sources.

Despite their vast importance, these wetland ecosystems are threatened. Because they are temporary, they are often not protected by wetlands laws. The study of these vernal pools is evolving, and ecologists are steadily increasing their understanding of these pools as a healthy habitat and breeding ground for many species.

This spring, you can see these vibrant ecosystems for yourself as you hike or bike through the forests of Maryland. These specialized, woodland wetlands can often be located by following the sounds of calling frogs. Take care not to disturb them, but by all means pause and look at the diversity of life that exists in these vernal pools.

A Blue View: The Chesapeake Bay as a Classroom

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 pm as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

April 10, 2013: The Chesapeake Bay as a Classroom

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John share ways locals
of all ages can get to know the Chesapeake Bay!

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation offers a variety of opportunities for all ages—students and adults—to learn about the Bay throughout the year. From field programs to professional development opportunities, learn what is available here.

The 46-foot workboat Snow Goose allows students to get up-close in their study of the dynamic relationship between the Port of Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay’s Patapsco River. Serving as a classroom on water, all of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s boat programs are equipped with state-of-the-art water quality monitoring equipment, allowing groups to generate data instantaneously, including pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, salinity, chlorophyll, and other indicators to build a complete picture of the health of the river. Participants can then compare their findings to the data of professional Bay scientists through on-board wireless laptops.

Learn more about the Baltimore Harbor Program and the Snow Goose here.

A Blue View: Bayscaping!

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 pm as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

April 3, 2013: Bayscaping

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John discuss the importance
of conservation-minded landscaping!

For many of us, spring means we can get our hands dirty. We bring out the mowers and the yard tools, head to the nurseries to buy seeds or plants for the garden, and enjoy spending our weekends outdoors working in the yard.

Increasingly in our region, a conservation-minded landscaping trend is taking hold. Sometimes called “bayscaping” here in the Mid-Atlantic, conservation landscaping incorporates sustainable strategies. The goal is to create an outdoor environment that reduces pollution and helps combat the contaminants that run into the Chesapeake Bay every day.

According to Blue Water Baltimore, Americans use 5 million tons of fertilizer and more than 70 million pounds of pesticides every year. Many times, these treatments are over-applied or applied at the wrong time, and they run off into our waterways.

To minimize the use of these types of garden treatments, one of the first things you can do is eliminate invasive plant species and instead incorporate native plants into your yard. Native plants are those that are naturally present in your region, while non-native species have been brought to the region at some point in history. Because native plants are uniquely adapted to a particular region, they don’t require as much water, fertilizer, or pesticides to be healthy. If you do find it necessary to use pesticides in your yard, first try alternatives, such as horticultural soaps. Pesticides not only kill the pests, but they harm other inhabitants of your yard as well.

Another key goal of bayscaping is the establishment of your green space as a dynamic wildlife habitat. According to the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council, minimizing the amount of lawn and replacing it with layers of plants—including trees, shrubs, and perennials—make yards wildlife friendly by providing a variety of shelter. Less lawn also means less mowing, which is another environmental plus. It’s also important to provide year-round water and food sources for your yard inhabitants.

Incorporating bayscaping strategies may mean that your yard doesn’t look like your neighbor’s, but that’s not a bad thing. Take the opportunity to educate them about sustainable landscaping practices. You may start a neighborhood trend that the Chesapeake Bay will thank you for!

Once your yard is bayscaped, there are several certification programs that will validate your conservation efforts. To achieve Bay-Wise certification, a Master Gardener will assess your property and give your yard a score. You can also create a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat by providing appropriate shelter, food, and water for the animals in your yard!

Animal Updates – March 22

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

Lined Seahorses

We have two new lined seahorses in our Surviving Through Adaptation exhibit – a male named Kuda (Malaysian for “seahorse”) and a female named Monroe!

Lined Seahorse

Lined Seahorse at National Aquarium, Baltimore
Photo courtesy of Michael Bentley

Did you know? This species of seahorse can actually be found in the Chesapeake Bay! Lined seahorses can vary drastically in both coloration and ornamentation.  They can range from a yellowish color all the way down the spectrum to nearly black.  Some may have intricate ornamentation on their backs and their heads.  Lined seahorses can also change color slightly to match their surroundings!

Golden Lion Tamarins

Our golden lion tamarins, found in the Upland Tropical Rain Forest exhibit, have been spending more time in one of the mahogany trees situated closer to ground level, giving visitors some great opportunities to see them up close!

golden lion tamarin

Check out this GREAT photo from one of our recent visitors, Instagram user kfollm!

Next time you’re up in the rain forest, be sure to look up and hopefully spot one of these amazing animals!

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!


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