"Fishing in Maryland is negatively impacted by pollution from coal-burning power plants," said Scott Sewell, conservation director of the Maryland Bass Federation in a March 24 prepared statement to the press. "Failure to quickly address these problems will leave future generations of people and wildlife at risk from the harmful effects of mercury pollution and habitat impairment."
In a letter addressed to Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. and the General Assembly, groups including the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association and the Maryland Bass Federation point out that Maryland anglers add as much as $1.6 billion annually to the state's economy, a contribution that is at risk. Evidence is mounting that mercury pollution from coal burning causes harm not only to wildlife, but to people who eat contaminated fish. Further, the reproductive problems of many species of waterfowl, fish, mink, and otter are attributed, at least in part, to pollution. The largest source of air pollution in Maryland comes from coal-fired power plants.
Scientists have found that the rate of sea-level rise in the Chesapeake Bay due to global warming—another harmful effect of emissions into the atmosphere—will result in a dramatic loss of wetland habitat and coastal marshes that waterfowl and young fish depend upon for survival. Warmer waters also increase the number and intensity of algal blooms and marine bacterial diseases.
"If mercury pollution is allowed to continue to poison our Chesapeake and its tributaries, one of Maryland's great traditions—recreational fishing—could suffer further damage," said Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association Executive Director Rich Novotny in the prepared statement to the press. "It is unfair that big polluters continue receive a free pass, as they have for decades, and endanger human health and the health of our fish."
Sterling Buzzell, president of Antietam Fly Anglers, remarked, "Few experiences in life are better than witnessing a child who reels in his or her first fish, then proudly takes it home for dinner. Power plants need to reduce their pollution so the state can lift fish consumption advisories caused by mercury pollution."
The Maryland Healthy Air Act has been approved by the Maryland State Senate and is expected to come up for a vote in the Maryland House of Delegates by Monday, March 27.
This story was published on March 25, 2006.