Mission & History
The Maryland Coastal Bays Foundation exists to protect and conserve the waters and surrounding watershed of Maryland’s coastal bays to enhance their ecological values and sustainable use for both present and future generations. To accomplish this goal, the Foundation will:
1. Engage federal, state, local partners and the public in defining the health concerns and conservation needs of the Coastal Bays and their watersheds;
2. Implement management strategies defined in the comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) in accordance with the Federal Clean Water Act as the Maryland Coastal Bays National Estuary Program;
3. Develop and use factual scientific information to improve the health and sustainable use of the Coastal Bays and their watersheds;
4. Promote responsible stewardship and actions to improve the Coastal Bays and their watersheds through public outreach and education; and
5. Conduct fundraising activities to secure public and private grants and donations to support environmental improvements beyond those provided by existing funding sources.
The Maryland Coastal Bays Program has identified changes in living resources, deteriorating water quality, loss and modification of habitat, increasing chemical contamination, impacts of water based activities, and pathogen contamination as priority issues threatening the coastal bays.
The State of Maryland, Worcester County, the Town of Ocean City, the Town of Berlin and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agree to work cooperatively to engage in a watershed wide process to develop strategies.
- Improve the overall water quality by reducing the causes of eutrophication, and maintain the water quality in relatively unimpacted areas such as Chincoteague Bay.
- Protect existing habitat, restore degraded habitat and create new habitat to improve the reproduction and maintenance of healthy living resource populations.
- Access the impact of pathogens and toxic chemicals on living resources and control and/or mitigate those impacts.
- Promote ecologically sound, sustainable development in order to protect the desired uses and economic vitality of the coastal bays region.
Maryland's coastal bays make up one of the richest, most diverse estuaries on the eastern seaboard. For more than a century, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, and more recently tourism, have sustained ways of life built on the land and water resources in this coastal community.
To the east of Route 113, the 175-square-mile watershed of the coastal bays includes Berlin, Ocean City, parts of Snow Hill and Pocomoke and the Assawoman, Isle of Wight, Sinepuxent, Newport, and Chincoteague bays.
Here, more than 300 species of migratory waterfowl, songbirds, and birds of prey seek the shallow bays for food and shelter. Rare species of plants and animals join blue crabs, flounder and clams in calling this estuary home.
At the same time, the coastal bays' multi-million-dollar tourism industry is fueled by 11 million annual visitors who flock to the coastal bays to fish, boat, swim or just enjoy the atmosphere in their favorite bayside restaurant.
But the history of this unique estuary extends beyond its marketability. A way of life in this community for over 400 years, farming and forestry continue to define the character and culture of this rustic jewel. Today, Worcester's forests and 474 farms contribute hundreds of millions of dollars annually to the local economy. Both also provide the open space and natural land essential to the wildlife which calls this part of the Eastern Shore home.
Yet these very attractions are paving the way for additional stress on the land and water resources that make up this coastal paradise. Population trends suggest that Worcester County will double in size east of Route 113 by the year 2020. Balancing growth with natural resource protection will be the ultimate challenge this estuary faces in the next millennium.
To achieve this balance, Worcester County residents from all walks of life have been working together to devise common sense ways of protecting the bays behind Ocean City and Assateague. This effort, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, has culminated in a Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) aimed at preserving this precious coastal resource.
Created by representatives from the development, farming, golf, tourism, and fishing industries, the plan represents a consensus of the best means needed to preserve the economic and ecological prosperity of the coastal bays in the next century. With help from local, state and federal planners and scientists, the strategies in this plan include reachable scientific goals and the most effective means for implementing them.
This plan, which you can download on this website, pinpoints conservation goals and the strategies needed to accomplish those goals. The plan also depicts how much each strategy will cost, who will be responsible for implementing it, and a timetable for implementation of each strategy. An Implementation and Finance Plan shows how each strategy will be funded.