By studying and understanding the impacts of our past
action, and working to repair and restore out waterways today,
we are helping to shape their future and the quality of life of
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a landmark agreement for the chesapeake bay
|Time for renewal:
- History was made in 1987, when the Chesapeake Bay Agreement became a model for estuary restoration around the world. Thirteen years later, the State of Maryland and DNR were again at the helm, with Governor Parris N. Glendening leading development of new specific guidelines that will serve as a regional blueprint for Bay restoration over the next decade. Chesapeake 2000 was signed by the Governor, Chair of the Chesapeake Executive Council, and state and federal representatives of neighboring watershed jurisdictions in a Bayside ceremony on June 28, 2000.
Formulated with a better understanding of how the Bay works, and increased awareness of the critical steps necessary to ensure its healthy future, the new Bay Agreement calls for: a tenfold increase in oyster populations; expansion of Bay grass beds and wetlands; removal of the Bay from the impaired waters list; enhanced cooperation with local governments; a 30 percent reduction in sprawl development; preservation of 20 percent of the watershed's land area from development; and leadership by example for government agencies.
- Conducting public forums, workshops and field trips for citizens, school groups and legislators are all in a day's work for Maryland's Tributary Strategy Teams -- 10 distinct groups working to stem Bay pollution at its source by cleaning up the streams, creeks and rivers that feed into the Chesapeake. Since 1995, this first of its kind program has united Maryland farmers, citizens, environmental groups, businesses and local jurisdictions in a common cause: To improve water quality in their own back yards -- the Bay's 10 sub-watersheds -- through educational programs, nutrient reduction projects and habitat improvement activities.
During fiscal years 2000 and 2001, Trib Teams supported new Bay Agreement goals with multifaceted programs focusing on policy, education and hands-on activities, organizing water quality wade-ins, tree grow-out stations, an urban tree nursery, riparian buffer plantings and natural resource inventories.
On the Eastern Shore, team-created task forces examined options for reducing septic system and public drainage impacts, while the Lower Western Shore team's Air Committee helped develop the Governor's Executive Order on Green Power and Energy Efficiency. In partnership with DNR experts and state, federal and local agencies, teams worked to develop basin summaries and management priorities to improve impaired waters, and new Chesapeake Bay water quality criteria to protect living resources.
Maryland's vast fishery resources help sustain our regional economy as well as the Chesapeake way of life. As in years past, the news and the bounties have been mixed...
- Continuing signs of decline, the state's 2001 blue crab commercial harvest is estimated to be about 20 million pounds, about 60 percent of the long term average of 34 million pounds. Efforts to develop a long term integrated management strategy continue, coordinated by the Chesapeake Bay Commission Bi-state Blue Crab Advisory Committee. The commission approved overfishing and overfished thresholds in January, and Maryland and Virginia took initial action as a part of a three-year plan to reduce the crab catch by 15 percent. 2001 actions include shorter seasons and workdays in the commercial fishery and reduced catch limits in the recreational fishery.
Reducing fishing pressure by 15 percent is the preferred short term strategy to reach the agreed upon target. By leaving a larger percentage of legal crabs in the Bay each year, spawning potential will improve, leading to long term rebuilding and protection of Chesapeake Bay crab stocks. Management options for further reductions in 2002 are being developed.
- Leading oyster restoration efforts, DNR's shellfish team worked with commercial watermen and citizen conservation groups to: plant 3.3 million bushels of oyster shells to improve habitat; plant 271,000 bushels of seed oysters to increase populations; build 13 shell mounds as oyster reef habitat; and experimentally clean 172 acres of bottom. The number of oyster sanctuaries grew from 19 to 24 this year, well ahead of the 2002 goal of 25.
- At the Paul S. Sarbanes Cooperative Oxford Laboratory -- a joint venture between DNR and NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) -- public service and research focuses on the health of fish, shellfish, marine mammals, sea turtles and wildlife. Special 2001 accomplishments included electronic mapping of Chesapeake Bay oyster habitat, a Bay wide assessment of oyster populations, new studies of oyster and clam diseases, and improved understanding of striped bass and menhaden diseases.
- Progress continued toward another Bay Agreement goal, to reopen 388.65 miles of upstream habitat to migratory fish by 2003. More than 349 miles of streams and rivers have been reopened to date through fishway construction, blockage removal or structure modification.
- The resounding success story of Maryland's striped bass stock continued, with the 2001 juvenile index of abundance at 50.8 -- the second highest measured in the survey's 48-year history. Close monitoring of harvest and other data, such as the young of the year survey, are ensuring responsible, effective management of the fishery. Maryland's annual sample of striped bass spawning stock in the Potomac River and Upper Chesapeake Bay areas indicated a slight increase in the proportion of female striped bass over age eight.
- Short and long term planning are integral to managing Maryland's fisheries resources for the long term. Exploring important issues such as aquaculture, ecosystem and multi species management, habitat, importation and mortality rates: reviews of or revisions to Atlantic sturgeon, American shad, black drum, bluefish, weakfish and yellow perch Fishery Management Plans (FMPs) were completed; the Coastal Bays FMP was established; the blue crab FMP was completed with adoption anticipated for 2002; a hard clam FMP was developed; and the Chesapeake Bay Program FMP workgroup was expanded.
- Our natural treasures belong to all of us, shaping our history, enhancing our present and, in some ways, forecasting our future. Along with teaching citizens how to enjoy our resources safely, responsibly and within the law, Maryland's Natural Resources Police (NRP) also work to protect those resources from those who violate state and federal law. During the past two years, the NRP completed several major investigations into illegal fishing -- including a collaboration with federal agents and a five-year undercover operation. Illegal pound net fishing, false catch reporting, checking station misuse, and undersize and overlimit catches resulted in thousands of charges and tens of thousands of dollars in fines being levied.
- Critical to the health of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, underwater grasses improve water quality and provide food and shelter for waterfowl, fish and crabs. Setting the foundation for the broader effort called for in the new Bay Agreement, DNR scientists are guiding submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) protection and restoration activities across the state -- identifying suitable planting areas, refining planting techniques and developing growing methods and facilities.
- Through a unique partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, established in 1998, students at 200 participating Maryland schools are this year growing Bay Grasses in Classes for transplanting into local waterways.
- DNR's resource assessment team continues to head Maryland efforts to monitor and respond to harmful algae blooms in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays, including Pfiesteria, mahogany tides, blue-green algae and browntides.
In response to outbreaks this year, the team conducted sampling, laboratory analyses and data management while collaborating with state and local agencies, citizens and the media to protect public health, fish populations, water quality and economic interests.
- DNR worked with the Maryland Department of the Environment, marinas, and boating and conservation groups to identify candidate no discharge zones; in September, the two agencies jointly submitted applications to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Herring Bay and the northern Coastal Bays. If approved, beginning in 2002 it will be illegal for boaters to discharge sewage in these areas -- even if it has been treated by a certified marine sanitation device. (It is already illegal to discharge raw sewage.)
- More than 300 of Maryland's 600 marinas now provide pumpout services, resulting in the proper disposal of about one million gallons of boat waste each year. Most of these were completely funded by a DNR-administered grant utilizing federal Clean Vessel Act funds and state Waterway Improvement funds. Our long range goal -- in accordance with the new Bay Agreement Ð is to increase the number of pumpouts to 450.
- During FY '01, 22 facilities were certified environmentally-responsible Clean Marinas -- more than during the program's first two years combined! There are now 36 certified Clean Marinas and six certified Clean Marina Partners (boat ramps and other boating facilities). If Maryland can certify 25 percent (150) of its marinas by 2004 through this voluntary program, we expect to avoid additional regulations.
- Shore erosion is a major contributor of sediments and nutrients to our waterways, destroying land, buffer areas and habitat. In response to recommendations from Governor Glendening's January 2000 Shore Erosion Task Force, a new comprehensive plan has identified project priorities along with Maryland's three highly susceptible counties (St. Mary's, Dorchester and Anne Arundel), control strategies, and long-term funding mechanisms; a structural project component has been reestablished; and program restructuring will enhance our ability to respond to local erosion control needs.
- Work toward a list of 65 potential projects in 11 counties is underway, beginning with highest priorities. Since 1968, Maryland's Shore Erosion Control Program has established more than 1,200 projects, stabilizing approximately 75 miles of eroding tidal shorelines and streambanks.
- Since the Coastal Bays were established as a National Estuary Program site in 1996, our coastal zone management team has worked with staff across the agency to coordinate and track activities focusing on watershed planning, riparian buffers, macroalgae research and fisheries management. This year's noteworthy efforts included work to develop and implement a comprehensive monitoring program; completion of a Sea Level Rise Response Strategy with recommendations for research, education, and potential management and policy options; establishment of a new fisheries management planning process for setting new goals, objectives and commercial and recreational regulations; development of navigation and dredging recommendations; and mapping of sensitive aquatic areas.