Tuesday, August 13, 2019

What's up with the Charles river?

Welcome back!

     This week might have been the most fishing I've done in a single week, and that's saying a lot. Monday was a normal day at Piers Park, involving our usual fare of fishing, lawn games, and fun. Tuesday, however, was another Courageous sailing fishing trip on the Belle! We took a bunch of new kids out into the harbor, many of whom had never fished before, and had a day of fishing and enjoying the weather. Even before we went out with the kids, Captain Charlie pulled up a lobster trap at the marina, and Kaya almost lost a finger finding out how fast lobsters are the hard way (she didn't really almost lose a finger, but it was *slightly* too slow to break skin).

On Wednesday Save the Harbor held our annual fishing derby! We all arrived really early in the morning to Fan Pier, and after a quick breakfast we split up into groups and headed out on our respective boats. I was on the Harvey Traveller with Xavier, Michael, and Roy, and Captain Dave drove the boat. As last year's SHSB derby champion (by technicality) I thought I would have a fighting chance this year, but as the day grew old and we had no bites on the rod, we headed back to the rod empty-handed. Even if we had caught anything, we wouldn't have been close to winning: Grace caught a 45.5" striped sea bass, only partially matched by a second-place tie between Jasmine and Karen, who caught 41" stripers. Even without catching anything, the fishing derby is fun every year, and I look forward to it next year. Thursday, we went back to our normal schedule at Piers Park, with a bit more fun this time: one of the kids caught a skate during dock time, and we taught our adaptation lesson again to some fresh faces. This time, we handed out some coloring sheets with marine animals on them and had the kids get into groups based on their animal. They brainstormed some ways the animal had adapted to its environment, and then got to coloring and adding their own "adaptations". Friday was the first day this summer when I didn't work at Piers Park: from what I've heard, we aren't programming at Piers on Fridays anymore. I got to work outside the Boston Children's Museum, with a whole new crew of coworkers. I loved seeing faces I remembered but hadn't seen in a while, and it was a blast working with the new group. We didn't have any big catches at BCM, but it was a refreshing change of pace nonetheless.

Image result for cyanobacteria bloom charles river
Cyanobacteria bloom in the Charles
      One of the strange things we noticed during dock time a week or two ago was a few dead fish floating near the shore. I thought a shipment of fish had spilled some of its cargo, but one of the Piers Park counselors had a theory about fish swimming into the Charles river and dying due to the cyanobacteria bloom there. I had never heard about cyanobacteria killing fish before, so I did a bit of research. Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic bacteria with a blue-green color (hence the name cyanobacteria) that thrive in areas with nutrient-rich water, warm temperatures, and sunlight. The most common reason for a cyanobacteria blooms in the Charles is the combination of a large rainstorm, which deposits nutrients into the river, followed by hot weather, which creates the ideal environment for the bloom. We've had two or three large rainstorms already this summer, and in tandem with the heat waves it makes complete sense that we have cyanobacteria blooms right now. It's possible that these blooms will become more impactful and more common due to climate change, which will increase the amount of warm weather and the amount of large storms we experience. As if rising sea levels weren't enough of a problem, now we have to add cyanobacteria blooms to the list of climate-related dangers as well.

     At first, I wondered why this was such a big deal. Green water and a few dead fish don't really affect people, but as I read more I found out that cyanobacteria poses numerous health hazards, with both contact and ingestion as possible means of entry. According to WBUR, ingestion of cyanobacteria can lead to "stomach cramps and nausea, hay fever-like symptoms, or liver failure and death in extreme cases" and physical contact can "also cause skin rashes". So, it's pretty nasty stuff. Luckily, we have ways to monitor the problem without having to rely on just avoiding green patches in the water. The Charles River Watershed Association, in addition to spreading awareness about the health dangers of cyanobacteria, organizes monthly monitoring programs that focus on testing various aspects of the water in the Charles, most importantly bacteria content. If anyone is interested, here is the link to volunteer for monthly water testing.

Song of the Week: What About Us by P!nk

SotW compilation playlist

See you next time,

~Colin McRae

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