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In the summer of 1997 a fish kill of 30,000 in the Pocomoke River on Maryland's Eastern Shore began a chain of events which prompted Maryland to create the first comprehensive nutrient management regulation in the nation. The alleged culprit in the kill was Pfiesteria piscicida, a water-borne microbe that emits toxins which dissolve the flesh of fish. The presence of Pfiesteria piscicida was linked to nutrient over enrichment of the river's water. The Pocomoke fish kill was the first of three similar events on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. These incidents were the target of insatiable media focus, later dubbed “Pfiesteria hysteria.” Although contributors to nutrient enrichment of the Chesapeake Bay (Maryland's most cherished natural asset) are manifold; the media, the Governor, and environmental groups placed blame squarely on the poultry industry, the Eastern Shore's single-largest employer. The year of 1998 brought tough legislation and a battle at the State House; and 1999 brought a draft regulation designed to enforce the compromise version of the Governor's original legislation. This paper will discuss the poultry industry and the development of a nutrient management program for an industry under acute public scrutiny.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2000

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