OCEAN CITY – Although there was plenty to celebrate at last week’s 15th Anniversary party for the Maryland Costal Bays Program (MCBP), the health of the coastal bays wasn’t one of them.
The annual MCBP Bays Report Card scored the bays’ overall grade this year a C, down from a C+ in 2009.
“We are really data rich at Maryland Costal Bays,” said Dave Wilson, MCBP executive director.
The score is based on a formula that determines how well for organisms can survive in the bays. A grade of B or better means animals such as fish, crabs, and shellfish, can more easily establish a longterm presence in the area, said Wilson. The C range or lower means there is a lot of stress for the species to survive.
“We see a trend in the northern bays of gradual improvement,” said Wilson. “Unfortunately in Chincoteague Bay there was a pretty significant decline.” Assawomen went from a C+ to a C this year and Chincoteague declined from a B- to a C.
The southern bays remain in better shape than the northern bays, but Wilson said he believed this trend is starting to turn around a little bit.
He said there are steps residents can take to do their part in conserving the quality and livability of the bays. Limiting the amount of impervious surfaces on a property — for example using a gravel driveway as opposed to asphalt — limits runoff into the bay.
Wilson recommends people plant as many native trees and shrubs as possible that do not require water and nutrients.
Reducing electricity use is another way people can help the bays. “A third of all the nutrients that go into our system are from the air,” said Wilson. “Because of our cars and coal, every time it rains, those nutrients go into our watershed.”
The 15th anniversary is a milestone for the group, which was initially founded by a residents who wanted to increase awareness for the costal bays. “When we first got together, there was not a lot of attention to the costal bays,” said Wilson. “The level of commitment has grown significantly over that past decade and a half.”
The celebration marked a time for reflecting on the past and excitement for the future. “We are starting to review our Comprehensive Management Plan,” said fundraising and marketing specialist Sandi Smith. “Now that we are in our 15 year mark we are evaluating where we have been, where we are now, and where we want to go.”
To learn more about upcoming events hosted by MCBP visit the website at www.mdcostalbays.org.