ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Nothing is better than being outside on a hot summer day, with friends and family, eating blue crabs with a copious amount of Old Bay seasoning by the dozen. This is a pastime that many people throughout the State of Maryland participate in, also including myself. As a child, I would always look forward to the days when my dad would come home with live crabs from our local seafood shop. I would watch with amazement as he steamed them in a 10-gallon pot that the time, looked larger than life. Unbeknownst to us, we were actively participating in the degradation of the Chesapeake Bay, one of the most important bodies of water in this nation. 

If you were to look at the Chesapeake 100 years before, you would see crystal clear water that could rival the beauty of the Caribbean beaches. Now, all that is seen is murky brown-red water covered with toxic Alage which produces a terrible smell. What is the cause of this you ask? This is happening solely because of the human influence on the Bay. Oysters are one of the most important animals in keeping a healthy and stable ecosystem in the Bay. Not only are they bottom feeders and keep algae and other plant growth in check, but they actively cleanse the 

water of the Bay. Oysters take in water from around them and filter out excess nutrients and pollutants that are found within, leaving clean water behind. A single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. A long time ago it would take oysters just around 4 days to filter the entirety of the Bay, Now it takes around 2 years to filter the same amount. 

This problem stems from the over-fishing of these waters. What used to be a place teeming with hundreds of different types of aquatic species. Now, fish and oyster populations are at an all-time low. The ever increasing demand for seafood is putting a strain on the fishermen and forcing them to catch more to reach their quotas. This is only leading to an exponential decline in all sealife in the bay. According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, there are “dead zones” which come from a lack of oxygen from the overgrowth of algae because of the lack of animals that eat it. In addition, stormwater runoff from cities and farms brings in many dangerous pollutants such as oil, pesticides, and many other chemicals used in everyday life. 

If we do not change how we harvest seafood, we may not be able to reverse the damage we have done to the Bay. Now, I’m not saying we should take seafood completely out of the diet, but a change must be made. Many regulations are in place which try to limit the amount of a boat can harvest. According to the Maryland Department of natural resources, a commercial boat must make sure a fish caught is at the minimum size and also have the times a boat can fish limited to certain seasons. Both of these are working to slow the rate of the decline of the fish population but it does not solve the problem. We have to change how consumers see seafood. A lot of restaurants pride themselves on using excessive amounts of seafood and most of it ends up wasted.

In addition, you can obtain any seafood at any time, even if it’s out of season. All of these factors end up in a bigger demand for seafood but none of this is needed. People have an expectation that seafood be there for them wherever they want, but that should change. If you limit access of seafood, it will only be appreciated more. If this does happen, the amount of fishing that must happen to meet demands will go down Some may argue that limiting the amount of fishing will mess with the economy and limit jobs. At the moment, Maryland makes over 500 million dollars in income a year with seafood exports and provides over 30,000 jobs. The limiting of seafood harvesting most likely will limit these numbers. However, one bill passed that is attempting to give the Bay better infrastructure to protect it is 238 million dollars. If you have to spend this amount of money to protect the Bay, it would be more worth it to not destroy it in the first place 

As Marylanders, we must put aside our love and seafood to protect one of the greatest bodies of water in this nation. Although this would be a huge change to make. One can start simple and simply only buy fresh seafood that’s in season and provide support and bring awareness to environmental agencies. 

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