3000 BC - 1600 AD
Native Americans lived around the Bay long before the English colonists arrived. They hunted rabbits, squirrels, deer and other game.
Native Americans cleared small areas of land using simple tools like the hoe, they planted corn, squash and beans.
There were only an estimated 12,000 Native Americans living in Maryland when the English arrived.
1600 - 1750 AD
The first generations of English colonists used the Bay, its resources and the land surrounding the Bay in much the same way Native Americans did. The colonists even copied the small, scattered settlement patterns of the Native Americans.
A hook and line caught inshore, shallow water species of fish such as sheephead and white perch.
They used simple hand tools such as the hoe to clear the land and cultivate crops. Colonists grew tobacco which can deplete the soil of nutrients and causes erosion. Colonists had so source of fertilizers, so they imitated the Native American techniques of growing crops.
Sustainable agriculture was possible as long as the population remained small.
1750 - 1870 AD
Several things occurred in this critical time period. The population of Maryland increased rapidly which increased the use of the bays' resources. Herring, American shad and bluefish were commonly caught in nets.
Forests were cleared to provide building materials and energy for heating and cooking.
Tobacco was still the main crop, but the adoption of the plow made it easier to cultivate large fields. Agricultural methods such as plowing disturb the soil to a greater depth.
This along with the harvesting of trees caused erosion to occur with many creeks and rivers filling in with sediment. Sediments also covered the bottom off the waterways forcing bottom feeding fish to leave, burying some oyster beds and smothering fish eggs-effectively beginning to change the kinds of fish using the Bay's tributaries.
1870 - 1940 AD
Technological changes increased dramatically in this time period.
Steamships and the railroad changed the way the Bay's resources were harvested. Previously, people only caught what they could eat or store. With efficient transportation, fish, crabs and oysters were marketed to distant cities.
The invention of the oyster dredge made it easier t harvest large numbers of oysters from areas that were previously inaccessible.
Larger and larger farms was the trend.
Erosion into the Bay and its waterways continued with many port cities silted in and no longer useful as ports.
After World War II, there was a population explosion the effects of which are still being felt.
People starting leaving the cities and the "suburb" was born. More and more land was converted from agriculture or cleared for housing developments, shopping malls, schools and roads.
Runoff on to Maryland's waterways increased, bringing an overload of nitrogen and phosphorous. These two nutrients cause algae blooms which robs the water of the oxygen needed by many aquatic animals. Algae blooms also prevents sunlight from reaching valuable underwater plants. Large areas with little or no oxygen began to appear in the Bay.
Technological changes in the kinds of boats and the types of equipment used for fishing caused a decline in the number so many fish species.
The decline of the Bay and its resources was recognized and in 1983, the Chesapeake Bay Agreements were singed by the states of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
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