Maryland’s Coastal Bays are located along the seaside portion of Worcester County and make up part of the region known as Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia). For more than a century, life in the Coastal Bays has depended on the ocean, the bays, and their tributaries. Fishing, hunting, agriculture and more recently tourism, have sustained ways of life built on the resources of the land and water in this coastal community. Like other coastal areas around the country, the coastal bays continue to experience rapid population growth and increased development. The northern bays are the sites of greatest human activity and environmental stress, while the southern bays which were normally viewed as pristine, are also showing signs of being impacted.
The Coastal Bays are shallow lagoons separated from the ocean by fragile barrier islands. Freshwater flows into the bays from groundwater, streams, and St. Martin River and a limited amount of seawater flushing occurs at the Ocean City and Chincoteague Inlets. While lagoons are typically very productive ecosystems the balance of nutrients can be tipped when over-enrichment occurs more quickly than the plants and animals can assimilate them. All regions of the bays are listed as impaired due to excessive nutrients. As such it is imperative that the community reduce pollution to protect and enhance the natural environment.