Good news this week about the Chesapeake Bay's most treasured finfish is offset by some troubling news about one of the estuary's signature birds.
Maryland natural resources officials reported their annual survey tallied the fourth highest number of young striped bass, or rockfish, in state waters in nearly six decades.
It was heartenng news about the bay's most prized fish for recreational anglers and commercial fishermen alike, after several years of below-average counts of juvenile rockfish. As my colleague Candus Thomson reported, the upper bay is the spawning ground and nursery for three-quarters of the striped bass that roam all along the East Coast.
There's been growing concern over their status lately. Besides sub-par spawning four out of the last five years, the overall striped bass population is down 25 percent, and up to 60 percent of adult striped bass in the bay are afflicted with a deadly disease, mycobacteriosis. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is weighing whether to curtail catches of them - a vote is set when the panel meets in early November.
Virginia saw similarly good reproduction of striped bass in their rivers feeding into the lower Chesapeake.
There's worrisome news out of Virginia, though, about ospreys, one of the birds that preys on fish inthe bay. A biologist at William & Mary College reports a dramatic decline in survival among osprey chicks. Bryan D. Watts, director of the college's Center for Conservation Biology, said in an op-ed published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch that "nine of every 10 eggs hatched, but only four of every 10 chicks survived to fledge. Chicks were hatching, but they were starving in the nest."