The coastal salt marsh is the predominant estuarine wetland type in the Chesapeake Bay and serves as one of the most biologically significant and productive ecosystems of the Mid-Atlantic region. Fishing Bay is the largest parcel of publicly owned tidal wetlands in Maryland, as well as the state's largest wildlife management area. Commonly observed waterfowl at Fishing Bay include the mallard, American black duck, green-winged teal, gadwall, northern pintail, greater and lesser scaup and Canada goose. Many species of shorebirds may be seen or heard, including the secretive black rail.
The project area is located within the high marsh, which historically would be inundated during spring and storm high tides, retaining water and functioning in the 400 acres of pools and pannes. Due to a channelization project many years ago, which was done to allow boat access to the open marsh, the pools and pannes became subject to daily tides. This negatively impacted the function and vegetation community, and ultimately led to the loss of an important food source for wintering and migrating waterfowl. That food source was primarily submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). Not only do SAVs provide high quality forage for ducks, they also produce oxygen, filter and trap sediment, absorb excess nutrients and provide habitat for numerous other wildlife species. Loss of SAV has occurred not only at Fishing Bay, but also in the entire Chesapeake Bay, which has seen declines of up to 90 percent.
In partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR), Ducks Unlimited (DU) plugged the channelized canal, restoring the natural hydrology and recreating habitat historically found in the Fishing Bay marshes by reestablishing productive shallow marsh ponds for SAV growth on the 400-acre high marsh tract. Innovative restoration techniques were utilized for the Fishing Bay pilot project and information gained from its success will be used as a potential blueprint to replicate in other important coastal marsh areas in Maryland. Restoration work was completed in late December 2006, in time for the spring growing season for SAVs.
Funding for the project was made possible through partnership with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Small Watershed Grants Program.