Maryland’s Coastal Bays—Assawoman, Isle of Wight, Sinepuxent, Chincoteague, and Newport Bays, and St. Martin River—are among our state’s most precious resources. For centuries, their waters, forests, marshes, and fertile soils have sustained growing populations. They have supported jobs in the agricultural, fishing, recreation, and tourism industries. They have provided important habitat for numerous species of fish and wildlife. They are a vital part of Worcester County’s and the lower Eastern Shore’s economy and quality of life. But, by their very nature, the Coastal Bays are especially vulnerable to environmental and human pressures.
The good news is that today the health of the Maryland Coastal Bays ecosystem is still in fair condition, The bad news is that the water quality and biodiversity of the Coastal Bays, as a whole, are declining and the ecosystem remains extremely vulnerable to both natural and human-induced impacts which threaten to overwhelm the progress made to date. Projections indicate that the population of Coastal Bays will continue to steadily expand over the next decade with associated development likely to have new or increased impacts on the region. Sea level rise, storm surges, and continued changes in land use patterns will compound current stresses on the ecosystem.
We know that problems such as loss of wetlands, algal blooms, and declines in fisheries persist in the Coastal Bays. We know that we can develop and promote ecologically sound solutions to many of these problems. We know that the continued economic prosperity and the quality of life that the citizens of Worcester County, and indeed, citizens throughout the region, enjoy will depend in large part on our ability to manage the Coastal Bays in a sustainable manner.
Paul S. Sarbanes
United States Senator from Maryland