Posts Tagged 'chesapeake bay'

Legislative Re-cap: 90 Days in Annapolis

government affairs and policy update national aquarium

Yesterday marked Sine Die, the adjournment of the General Assembly’s 2014 legislative session in Annapolis.

It has been a busy session, with 1,117 bills introduced in the House of Delegates and another 1,555 bills introduced in the Senate. Approximately one-third of those bills were passed before midnight and will eventually be signed into law by the Governor.

The National Aquarium’s Government Affairs team has been busy supporting a handful of select bills. Here is a brief look at how a few of our bills fared this session:

HB 118 | Task Force to Study the Impact of Ocean Acidification on State Waters – PASSED
The legislature gave final approval to a bill that will create a task force to analyze the potential effects of ocean acidification in State waters and State fisheries. This task force would report back to the General Assembly with recommendations on potential strategies to mitigate the effects of ocean acidification by 2015. The task force will consist of members from the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of the Environment, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the National Aquarium as well as representatives from the watermen community, the Senate and the House of Delegates.

HB 296/SB 336 | Designation of New Wildlands – PASSED
Bills expanding State-designated wildlands from the current 29 areas to 38 areas (from 44,000 acres to 65,000 acres) passed both chambers and are now on the Governor’s desk. The bills seek to legally protect certain wilderness areas from development, cars and other impacts, which are legislative priorities for Governor Martin O’Malley.

$2.12 million allocated for National Aquarium in the Capital Budget
The legislature increased funding from what the Governor originally included in his Capital Budget ($1.5 million to $2.12 million) to fund critical infrastructure improvements and the renovation of the Aquarium’s Maryland: Mountains to the Sea exhibit.

$474,601 allocated for National Aquarium’s Education Programs
The Governor level-funded the State Aided Institution (SAI) portion of the Maryland State Department of Education’s budget. The Aquarium will receive $474,601 toward education programs to help bring tens of thousands of Maryland schoolchildren, teachers and chaperones to the Aquarium completely free of charge.

Polluted Runoff Bills | DEAD IN COMMITTEE, Budget Language Added
Twenty different bills were introduced to repeal or weaken the 2012 stormwater law this legislative session – and none made if out of committee. Language was added to the budget that allows Maryland’s Department of the Environment to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Carroll or Frederick counties to establish an alternative source of funding for meeting their polluted runoff goals.

HB 913 | Food Fish and Shellfish: Labeling and Identification Requirements – DEAD IN COMMITTEE
A bill that would require restaurants and grocery stores to label seafood with the common name of fish/shellfish and prohibited mislabeling did not receive a vote in the House Environmental Matters Committee. The bill would also have required restaurants and grocery stores to identify the origin of a crab product by state or country of origin.

SB 394 | Statewide Container Recycling Refund Program – DEAD IN COMMITTEE
The bill would have established a fully refundable 5-cent container deposit on beverage containers sold in Maryland. The bill would also have established redemption centers across the State. If it had passed, the bill had the potential to increase Maryland’s recycling rate of beverage containers from 22 to 76 percent.

SB 707/HB 718 | Community Cleanup and Greening Act of 2014 – DEAD IN COMMITTEE
A bill that would have enabled county governments to pass county bag-fee laws that require retail and grocery stores to charge customers at least a 5-cent fee for paper and plastic bags did not receive a vote in either the House or Senate committees.

While this year’s legislative session in Maryland may be coming to a close, our Government Affairs team will be working diligently over the next 275 days to raise awareness and support for these important pieces of conservation legislation!

To stay updated on our efforts throughout the year, be sure to sign up for our legislative updates

sarah elfreth government affairs manager national aquarium

Happy Maryland Day!

government affairs and policy update

Every year on March 25th the Old Line State celebrates the rich history of all things Maryland. Did you know? It was on this day in 1634 that colonists ventured up the Chesapeake Bay and arrived on Maryland soil!

Here at the National Aquarium we take pride in our Maryland roots. 70,000 Maryland schoolchildren, teaches and chaperones visit the Aquarium every year. Hundreds of National Aquarium staff and volunteers work tirelessly to restore the Chesapeake Bay. And the seals, sea turtles, and whales that get stranded off of Ocean City and other Maryland  beaches? National Aquarium resumes, rehabilitates and releases them back into the wild.

But the Aquarium’s Maryland pride does not stop there – we also have a strong representation of Maryland animals throughout our exhibits, both species native to our coast and ones that rely on the calm waters of the Chesapeake Bay to survive.

Everyone is quick to recognize Maryland favorites like blue crabs and terrapins, but here are some not-so-obvious animals that can be seen in Maryland waters: 

Lined Seahorse

This pale yellow seahorse has dark lines across its head and body that help it camouflage into Bay grasses.

lined seahorse

This species of seahorse can be found year-round in the middle and lower regions of the Chesapeake Bay, extending north to regions such as Calvert County and Kent Island. While usually found amidst the grasses in the Bay’s shallow waters, they can also be seen clinging to ropes and crab pots.

Sandbar Shark

Usually found along the North American Atlantic coast, these stocky brownish sharks can be seen in the shallows of the middle and lower regions of the Bay in Summer and Fall.

Sandbar shark

These Chesapeake Bay visitors are usually large schools of juveniles, usually ranging only about 2-3-feet in size, however, spotting an adult 7-foot sandbar shark in the Bay would not be unheard of. The Bay has become one of the most important sandbar shark nursery areas on the East Coast and young sharks often feed on native blue crabs. The sharks prefer the protected waters and stay near the smooth sandy bottoms of the Bay before heading back into the southern waters when the weather gets cooler.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Adult loggerheads are common in the lower Bay from May to November, but can also be seen as far north as Kent Island during summer months.

Loggerhead turtle

They come to feed on blue crabs and horse crabs and to hatch their young. The lower Bay is an important growth area for young loggerheads before they are large and strong enough to make it back into the open ocean.

Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose dolphins visit the lower and middle Chesapeake Bay in the summers, usually to Cape Charles and the James and Elizabeth Rivers.

dolphin count

They can go into fresh water for short periods and feed on a variety of the Bay’s fish, crabs, and other shellfish. You can find them traveling in pods ranging anywhere from 2 to 15 dolphins, staying in the Bay and rivers for a summer vacation before heading back to the open water when the weather gets cooler.

Cownose Ray

With a wingspan of up to 3 feet, cownose rays can also be found traveling in schools in the shallow waters of the Chesapeake Bay during summer months.

national aquarium cownose ray

The schools traverse the lower and middle parts of the Bay, sometimes going as far north as Kent Island, from May to October, before heading back to southern coastal waters when autumn comes. They come to the Bay to search of oysters and clams and a safe place to mate in the late summer from June to July. The schools can be large and visible as they move through the Bay.

How are you celebrating Maryland Day? Tell us in the comments section! 

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Bill of the Week: Capital Budget

government affairs and policy update national aquarium

Governor O’Malley submitted his Fiscal Year 2015 Capital Budget to the Maryland General Assembly in early January. The $4 billion Capital Budget includes nearly $700 million for public school and university construction, $450 million for projects such as land preservation and Chesapeake Bay restoration, and $2.5 billion for transportation projects.

The Governor’s Capital Budget also includes funding for the National Aquarium for the second year in a row. If approved by the General Assembly, the State’s $1.5 million will help the Aquarium address critical infrastructure needs while simultaneously redesigning the way we communicate the remarkable aquatic treasure just beyond the Aquarium’s walls: the Chesapeake Bay.

chesapeake bay watershed

Addressing these infrastructure pieces will allow us to completely re-imagine the way we communicate the unique beauty and diversity of the Bay. Interactive exhibits – both in the main Aquarium building and outside the Aquarium walls that reach the edges of Inner Harbor – will share the success stories of and challenges still facing one of our nation’s greatest natural treasures.

The exhibit will surely give the Aquarium’s 1.4 million annual visitors – the majority of whom reside within the Chesapeake Bay’s watershed – a sense of how water connects us all.

The General Assembly will be voting on the Capital Budget over the next few weeks. The 2014 legislative session adjourns on April 7th.

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our legislative update emails and follow me on Twitter for real-time updates from Annapolis throughout session!

sarah elfreth government affairs manager national aquarium

Our Conservation Re-cap for 2013!

2013 has been an exciting year for our Conservation team! We continued our work at some of our existing restoration sites, and also celebrated some exciting new events and projects!

None of our success would be possible without the help of our volunteers and partners. With their help, we restored over 24.6 acres this year! This awesome feat required the help of 1,312 volunteers who spent 3,057 hours planting 50,845 plants and removing 54,227 pieces of debris.

national aquarium conservation debris

Many of our projects this year took place right in Baltimore City. We planted living shorelines at the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center and planted a forest buffer at Farring-Baybrook Park, the largest open space in Baltimore City! At our wetland field station adjacent to Fort McHenry National Monument and Shrine, we held our annual Spring Fort McHenry field day where we removed debris and planted trees to celebrate Arbor Day.

ft. mchenry

The National Aquarium spread conservation efforts outside of the city as well, with restoration projects all over the state of Maryland. In Salisbury, we worked with local students, community volunteers, and The Nature Conservancy to restore an Atlantic White Cedar swamp. In Southern Maryland we continued our long term efforts to restore shoreline on the shores of Naval Support Facility- Indian Head. In New York, the northern end of the watershed, we worked with local students to restore unique freshwater wetland habitats.

Here are just a few of the groundbreaking initiatives we participated in this year: 

  • In May, we congratulated our first class of Maryland Master Naturalists. This program is run by the University of Maryland Extension program, and trains volunteers in Maryland’s flora and fauna.
  • In June, the Choose Clean Water Conference was held in Baltimore, and the Aquarium hosted multiple field trips for participants to showcase our Chesapeake Bay Restoration work.
  • In May, we were joined by Maryland’s First Lady Katie O’Malley and our partners at the National Wildlife Federation, announced our part in a new initiative to make Baltimore truly a city for the birds! We’re cooperating to make Baltimore one of the greenest cities in the country by certifying Baltimore City homes and businesses as backyard wildlife habitats.
  • In September, The US Fish & Wildlife Service named Masonville Cove the first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership. This new initiative is an effort to make more of our nation’s beautiful, natural areas accessible to all populations, including urban ones.

Want to join in the fun and be a part of our conservation successes in 2014? Sign up for our newsletter!

Volunteer Spotlight: Jillie Drutz, Chesapeake Conservation Corps

We would like to welcome the newest volunteer of the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!), Jillie Drutz! Joining the National Aquarium as the 4th Chesapeake Conservation Corps (CCC) volunteer the department has hosted, Jillie will be dedicating a year to helping the Conservation department in their endeavors to conserve, restore, and educate about the Chesapeake watershed.

national aquarium volunteer jillie

The Chesapeake Conservation Corps, a program supported by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, was established in 2010 by the Maryland Legislature in order to provide environmental service-learning opportunities for young professionals interested in pursuing conservation careers. The initiative pairs around 25 Corps volunteers with environmental organizations focusing on Chesapeake Bay conservation all throughout Maryland.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Jillie graduated in May of 2013 from the George Washington University in Washington, DC where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Biological Anthropology. She always knew that one day she would dedicate some time to working to protect the Chesapeake Bay, which is why she applied to the Chesapeake Conservation Corps. Jillie feels extremely honored to be assigned to the National Aquarium, where she gets to combine her love of fieldwork and education, and where she can learn more about how a museum institution can be involved in the local community.

Jillie has already had the opportunity to participate in wetland restoration at the Masonville fringe wetland and riparian buffer restoration at Farring-Baybrook Park and Indian Head Naval Facility. She has also worked with students in our Wetland Nursery Program. She enjoys working with community volunteers and students from various backgrounds during these projects, and is excited for the opportunity to give back to her city and her Bay. She cannot wait for the field season to start again in the Spring!

Sign up for one of our upcoming conservation events and come meet our new volunteer!


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