Mallows Bay Ghost Fleet Declared Marine Sanctuary

By Chesapeake Conservancy

Mallows Bay Ghost Fleet Declared Marine Sanctuary

Local community partners, national conservation and preservation groups, and recreation and education advocates celebrated the designation of a new national marine sanctuary at Mallows Bay in the Potomac River. The sanctuary will take effect by the end of 2019 and will be the first designated in 19 years. This new sanctuary in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will protect the “Ghost Fleet” of more than 200 shipwrecks.

“Mallows Bay contains the greatest, richest and most vibrant maritime artifacts of America’s ascendancy on the international stage,” said historian Donald G. Shomette, author of Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay. “It is a virtual calendar of over 250 years of history, including the very ships that made America the greatest shipbuilding nation on the planet. It is truly a national treasure.”

“Mallows Bay is a unique place where we can immerse ourselves in our natural and cultural heritage by getting up close to history,” said Kim DeMarr, owner of Atlantic Kayak Company. “As someone who takes people out on the water every day, the national recognition and attention that comes from having a national marine sanctuary creates new opportunities to connect our community and visitors alike to the Chesapeake Bay watershed through fun, educational experiences while growing our outdoor recreation economy.”

“Marine sanctuaries are our nation’s underwater living laboratories and outdoor classrooms,” said Diving With a Purpose Director Jay Haigler. “In partnership with students from Ocean Guardian schools in the area, we are already seeing young leaders empowered to become environmental stewards, to educate and engage people throughout their communities, and to inspire action and appreciation for our shared maritime heritage. That’s the true power of sanctuaries.”

“This is a great day for the Chesapeake Bay. The first National Marine Sanctuary in the Chesapeake means there will be a spotlight on one of the hardest fought restoration efforts of our time. All eyes will now be on our challenges and our achievements as we work to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay. We hope that the designation will encourage more people to come out and kayak through the shipwrecks to experience the wonder of Mallows Bay firsthand,” said Joel Dunn, Chesapeake Conservancy president and CEO.

The Ghost Fleet of the Mallows Bay site includes more than 200 wrecks that span three centuries of maritime heritage. As the largest and most varied collection of shipwrecks in the western hemisphere, the Ghost Fleet is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Over time, these abandoned ships became the foundation for a rich habitat for endangered and threatened wildlife, including bald eagles, herons, and osprey, river otters and beaver, and numerous fish species.

Situated less than 40 miles south of Washington, D.C., it will be the closest national marine sanctuary to our nation’s capital, opening new possibilities for building support for the National Marine Sanctuary System among the public.

This sanctuary provides ample potential for educational and outreach opportunities. Mallows Bay is an outdoor classroom for two Ocean Guardian schools in Maryland, where it is a safe space for students to explore and learn outside of the traditional framework and off of screens. Sanctuaries, including Mallows Bay, are a model for outdoor classrooms, getting kids outdoors to learn skills and becoming interested in the environmental field. Most recently, partnerships with the National Association of Black Scuba Divers, Diving With a Purpose and Junior Scientists in the Sea have provided in-pool dive instruction for high school students and introduced other advanced technologies that one day may be the inspiration for academic and career pursuits.

Mallows Bay is a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, birdwatching and other outdoor recreation, making it an economic engine for the region. The sanctuary designation will enhance the site’s tourism and recreation potential thanks to elevated awareness, new programs and enhanced public access points throughout the sanctuary, and new links with local businesses. Unlike maritime heritage sites with fully submerged shipwrecks, the historic and ecological resources at Mallows Bay are visible from shore, readily accessible by kayak and brought to life with an interpretative water trail guide available on-site. The site also has great promise for research, conservation, citizen science, and educational opportunities because of its unique maritime features and connection to the Chesapeake Bay.

America’s National Marine Sanctuary System includes 13 marine and one Great Lakes sanctuaries and two marine national monuments. These unique waters sustain critical, breathtaking marine habitats that provide homes to endangered and threatened species. They preserve America’s rich maritime heritage and are living laboratories for science, research, education and conservation. Sanctuaries also offer world-class outdoor recreation experiences for all ages and support local communities by bringing billions of dollars to their economies. Communities across the nation look to sanctuaries to protect nationally significant areas of our ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes.

About the Conservancy – Chesapeake Conservancy’s mission is to conserve and restore the natural and cultural resources of the Chesapeake Bay watershed for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. We empower the conservation community with access to the latest data and technology. As principal partner for the National Park Service on the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, we helped create 153 new public access sites and permanently protect some of the Bay’s special places like Werowocomoco, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, and Fort Monroe National monument. chesapeakeconservancy.org

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