The death of millions of grass shrimp and about 50 blue crabs in Waquoit Bay is not an event that should be dismissed as “Well, those things happen these days.”
Fish kills do happen these days, and most summers we can expect it to happen in one of the estuaries. The smaller ponds are most susceptible; so are the narrow upper reaches of the larger salt ponds. But when there is a low-oxygen event in an estuary as large as Waquoit Bay, there is reason to turn concern for water quality up a notch.
Falmouth has been making very good progress with water quality management, and the town has a good plan in place. The event in Waquoit Bay makes clear, though, that we are in the very early stages of planning and implementation. The Water Quality Management Committee surely recognizes this, but the broader community should also be looking ahead and thinking about next steps.
Waquoit Bay is a shared waterway between Falmouth and Mashpee. It is a place to be thinking about cooperative efforts. The bay is also home to a prominent research reserve with expertise and first-hand knowledge of the estuary. There could be some interesting opportunities for collaboration.
The die-off of grass shrimp, even millions of them, might not grab public attention the way a dozen striped bass did when they were found dead on the shore of Little Pond. But the event was nonetheless significant.
Christopher Weidman, research coordinator at Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, called it the worst incident he has seen in 15 years. That is frightening; what do the next 15 years hold?