New national marine sanctuary created by NOAA, state of Maryland
The U.S. state of Maryland and NOAA announced 8 July that a new national marine sanctuary, dubbed the Mallows-Bay Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary, has been created along the Potomac River.
The new sanctuary was created to protect the remains of over 100 abandoned steamships and vessels that were built as a part of the United States’ actions in World War I. The area, about 40 miles south of Washington, D.C., is the first national marine sanctuary created since 2000.
“The designation of Mallows Bay as a national marine sanctuary is an exciting milestone for NOAA and an opportunity for the public to celebrate and help protect this piece of our nation’s rich maritime history,” Acting NOAA Administrator Neil Jacobs said in a release. “We look forward to working with the state of Maryland, Charles County and other local partners to foster education and research partnerships as well as support and enhance local recreation and tourism along this historic stretch of the Potomac River.”
Maryland initially nominated the area in 2014 in order to protect the shipwrecks, as well as the natural resources in the area. Comprised of an 18-square-mile stretch of the Potomac River, the key feature of the sanctuary is the “ghost fleet” of hundreds of ships that were constructed in 40 shipyards across 17 states. In addition to the ships, the area boasts archaeological artifacts that are thousands of years old, and a diverse set of flora and fauna that have used the shipwrecks as habitat.
“There’s good reason that the Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary will be the first national marine sanctuary created in the last two decades – it’s a unique blend of historical, recreational and habitat resources with strong public support for its protection,” Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland said. “I strongly applaud the dedication of all those who have worked to help get us to this point and will continue to work with them in support of the sanctuary’s final designation in the days ahead.”
NOAA has encountered controversy with its previous designation of marine areas for preservation - most notably, with the creation of Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. Created by former U.S. President Barack Obama, the move to make fishing off-limits in the 5,000-square-mile area off the coast of New England was opposed by numerous fishing groups. However, the administration of President Donald Trump has defended Obama's move in court and eventually declined to alter the monument's status to address the grievances of commercial fishermen.