By Sabri Ben-Achour
The Chesapeake Bay is showing some encouraging signs according to an annual survey, but pollution remains a serious problem.
At the Annapolis pier, elementary school students on a field trip take turns holding some of the lifeforms that inhabit the bay.
"That's a feather blenny fish," says one child. "It lives on an oyster reef."
If these creatures survive the students, life may be looking up, according to an annual survey of bay health.
"I think there are two key bright spots--one is in the increase in underwater grasses," says Richard Batuik, associate director of science for the Chesapeake Bay Program.
A host of animals need grasses for shelter. Scientists credit improvements in waste water treatment. And the other is crabs.
"Our scientists have also measured the highest number of adult blue crabs out there since 1993," says Batuik.
Batuik says this reflects curbs on crabbing since the population almost collapsed just a few years ago.
But better isn’t the same as good.
Oyster populations are at 1 percent of their historic levels. Only 12 percent of the Bay has enough oxygen. And a lot of the improvements in water quality is due to the weather. We've had less rain in the past few years, so a little less pollution happened to wash into the bay.
"There's still too much Nitrogen, Phosphorus and sediment pollution going into the bay," says Batuik.
And a lot of it is coming from urban areas, according to Batuik.
"People have to think twice about fertilizing their lawn, we have to get farmers to use more conservation practices, and we've got sewage treatment plants we need to continue to upgrade," he says.
Back at the pier, the elementary students are making their own efforts to save the creatures of the bay.
"Make sure it gets some water so it doesn't die," says one child.
If only it were as easy, say environmentalists, for the rest of the bay.