by Gwendolyn Supplee
My family has been vacationing on the southern eastern shore of Maryland at Janes Island State Park since 2013. The first year, we had an almost one-year old daughter and weren’t quite comfortable getting out on the waters of the Tangier Sound with a little one. So we enjoyed the beauty of the Bay from the land, but were still able to partake in many of the activities that make a “Bay-cation” so appealing, at least to us – fishing and crabbing!
As we began to plan our 2014 vacation, my husband suggested we buy a boat to really experience the Chesapeake Bay where it was meant to be enjoyed, on the water. I was open to the idea, until he came home with a used boat he found with so much dirt, weeds, and small trees growing out of it, I wasn’t sure if he had purchased a boat or a planter for our front yard. Alas, he got the boat sea-worthy for our trip, and we were able to experience the open Bay.
He’s made improvements to the boat every summer, and similarly, the Chesapeake Bay has shown some great improvements in many of its water quality indicators in the last several summers, as well. That’s a big deal considering the impact of a cleaner Bay on the region’s economy, including drawing more families like mine to its shores.
Since 2010, the six Bay states and the District of Columbia have been taking significant steps to meet the clean water goals of the historic Bay TMDL “pollution diet.” The TMDL is designed to reduce excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that leads to murky water and algae blooms, blocking sunlight from reaching and sustaining underwater Bay grasses and creating low levels of oxygen for aquatic life, such as fish, crabs and oysters.
I eagerly read the reports about the outlooks for fishing and crabbing this July before we set out on vacation, and when we got to the park, we quickly made friends with our camping neighbor to learn the best spots for casting our poles and nets.
As a Marylander who frequents the waters of the Bay up and down the Eastern Shore, our new friend commented the Bay had the best clarity and abundance of Bay grasses he had seen in years, and expressed optimism that the cleanup seemed to be working. The next day we reeled in a male blue crab, 6 ¼” point to point, and had to agree, things on the Bay, especially our nightly vacation dinners with crab on the menu, were definitely looking up!
About the Author: Gwendolyn Supplee is a Life Scientist who has been with EPA for six years and currently works in the Air Protection Division. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors on land and on the water with her family.