ANNAPOLIS, MD – Maryland’s Coastal Bays have received their highest grade ever reported according to the new 2017 Coastal Bays Report Card from the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, a snapshot assessment on the health and resiliency of the coastal bays surrounding Ocean City and Assateague Island. The “B-” grade reflects the positive trend nutrient reductions have shown in many locations since 1999.
“Maryland’s Coastal Bays are an integral part of our region, and are unique ecological treasures in the landscape of the Eastern Shore and our great state,” Governor Larry Hogan said. “The marked improvement we see in the bays’ health is the result of significant state investment, as well as the work and dedicated stewardship of many Marylanders.”
The bays’ health is defined as the progress of four water quality indicators and two biotic indicators toward scientifically derived ecological thresholds or goals. The six indicators are combined into one coastal bays health index, presented as a report card score.
“The ongoing effort to preserve and protect our five coastal bays and the St. Martin River is showing signs of success thanks to our engaged communities and partners,” Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “We must continue investing in sound science and measurable management to build on this high benchmark.”
Maryland’s coastal bays make up one of the richest, most diverse estuaries on the eastern seaboard. For more than a century, agriculture, fishing, forestry hunting, and more recently tourism, have sustained ways of life built on the land and water resources in this coastal community.
“This good news for Maryland’s coastal bays underscores the importance of monitoring these incredible ecosystems to ensure that we’re taking the right steps as a society to help them to be resilient and healthy,” President of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Peter Goodwin said. “Our scientists are committed to measuring this progress and helping to guide our state toward a more sustainable future.”
The Report Card is a scientific collaborative effort among the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and the National Park Service.
“The National Estuary Program is by definition a partnership program, and nothing exemplifies that more than the effort going on to improve our bays from all of the folks working, living and recreating in our Coastal Bays watershed,” Maryland Coastal Bays Program Executive Director Frank M. Piorko said.
The Maryland Coastal Bays Program is one of 28 National Estuary Programs designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which funds the program and the report’s publication. Other partners include the towns of Ocean City and Berlin, the National Park Service, Worcester County, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Maryland Departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Environment and Planning.