1998 Pfiesteria Response Update

April 29, 1998

Maryland Department of Natural Resources has been working with our sister state agencies and the Pfiesteria Technical Advisory Committee to develop a four level Pfiesteria Response Strategy. A central aspect of this strategy is the intensive monitoring of fish health and habitat quality in selected tributaries. Although we understand the general relationship between habitat quality (including nutrients), fish, and toxic outbreaks; we do not yet understand it well enough to predict when and where toxic outbreaks will occur. For this reason, we are pro-actively sampling fish health and habitat quality on the three rivers affected during 1997 (Pocomoke, Manokin/Kings Creek, and Chicamacomico/Transquaking) and several other rivers that are similar in terms of nutrient levels and physical dynamics. Fish health will be monitored every two weeks and habitat quality monthly on these rivers through October 1998.

So far this year (as of April 29), DNR crews have monitored fish health on eight rivers in the Chesapeake bay and the coastal bays. Only about 0.1% of the over 34,800 fish collected exhibited any kind of abnormality; indicating healthy populations. Sampling to evaluate habitat quality have been carried out three times on the Pocomoke River, twice on the Manokin and Chicamacomico, and once each on the Nanticoke, Big Annemessex, and Newport Bay/Trappe Creek. The St. Martin River and Eastern Shore Wicomico River will be sampled for habitat quality within the next week. Although the important nutrient data collected during these evaluations has not yet returned from the laboratory (it takes up to two months to fully analyze the samples) the immediately available physical data (salinity, temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen) revealed nothing unusual.

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