Governor Ehrlich Releases State Of The Coastal Bays Report
First-ever compilation of data provides a benchmark to create restoration plan
OCEAN CITY -- Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., today announced the findings of the first-ever comprehensive “State of the Maryland Coastal Bays” report. The report summarizes the findings of a multi-year effort to measure the health of the bays behind Fenwick and Assateague Islands and Ocean City.
The health of Maryland’s Coastal Bays had not been comprehensively monitored and assessed until 2001, when the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began an environmental monitoring program designed to fill in the gaps in the variety of pre-existing, very focused state and federal programs already in place. With several years of data in hand, scientists at DNR, the University of Maryland, and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program joined together to evaluate the data and summarize the results. Comprehensive, multi-year, scientifically robust assessments such as these are critical to direct management efforts to restore and protect the Coastal Bays.
“The years of effort that went in to this important report have now, for the first time, provided us with the scientific information we need to restore and protect these important natural resources,” Governor Ehrlich said. “This report will allow us to target our efforts in the most efficient and scientifically sound manner, set quantifiable restoration goals, and measure our progress toward those goals while making adjustments as necessary.”
Major findings of the report include:
Continued monitoring and future assessments will now allow the State and its partners to more efficiently target management actions designed to restore the bays, set quantifiable restoration goals, and track progress at achieving those goals.
- The primary threats to Maryland’s Coastal Bays are excessive nutrients and sediments from human activities on land.
- Areas of the Coastal Bays that first receive pollutants from human activities are in worse health while those flushed with relatively clean ocean water from inlets are in better health. Conditions are poor in the tributaries (St. Martin River, Newport Bay), fair in the bays behind Ocean City (Assawoman, Isle of Wight), and good in the southern bays (Sinepuxent, Chincoteague).
- Clam and blue crab populations have been relatively stable over the past 10 years, although Coastal Bay blue crab populations are threatened by a parasite. Forage fish populations (small fish that serve as food for many recreationally and commercially important species) have been slowly declining over the past 30 years.
- Seagrasses, which serve a critical role in the health of the Coastal Bays, have been gradually increasing, but are still far below potential population sizes, particularly in the northern bays.
- Several forms of harmful algae are found in the Coastal Bays and may be damaging seagrass and clam populations.
A full copy of the report can be viewed online at http://dnrweb.dnr.state.md.us/pressroom/MCB.pdf