Taking Stock of Maryland’s Working Waterfronts

​​In 2007, the Maryland Working Waterfront Commission was created to recommend a strategy to preserve and protect commercial fishing access to public trust waters. The final commission report noted that like most working waterfronts around the United States, Maryland is witness to a decline in access for a variety of reasons. Decades of declining commercial fishing harvests, which have occurred for both environmental and economic reasons, have left much of the traditional infrastructure compromised.  Coastal development pressures often result in a transition from traditional uses and the loss of historic pieces of working waterfronts. 

There is optimism that the recovery of commercial fishing stocks will result in renewed economic activity that will bolster the harvesting sector and the remaining working waterfront parcels.  The growth in shellfish aquaculture will also bring new economic support to the harvesting sector which will in turn serve to drive demand for working waterfront infrastructure needed to engage in this growing industry. 

As a follow up to the Commission report, the Chesapeake & Coastal Service (CCS) developed a pilot project to define and inventory the infrastructure and access points for both water dependent business and commercial watermen.  This information is key to identifying and better understanding the appropriate approaches for preservation and enhancement of our working waterfronts.

CCS has partnered with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to conduct consistent working waterfront inventory assessments throughout the state. Project staff worked with waterfront community partners to identify the type of support data needed for a regional assessment and to identify the inventory locations.

The standardized field inventory data was collected by global positioning system (GPS) to spatially inform facility locations and their attributes.  Primary field work utilized a standardized facility inventory form which included data for general services such as: fuel (gas/diesel), power, water, pump out, waste oil disposal, hauling capacity, winches or booms, repair, supplies, bathroom, ship’s store, etc. Specific services relevant to commercial fishing use included:  buying station, fish off loading, fish packing, ice or freezer holds, refrigeration, bait, dredge/net repair, gear loading, gear storage, etc. Physical attributes were recorded such as:  water access (depth), road access, parking, wharf condition, light vehicle access, heavy vehicle access, freight, etc. 

The inventory has been a multi-year effort, with the first year focused on waterfront dependent Industries throughout the watershed of the Choptank River, which is located on the eastern shore of Maryland. The second year of the regional project expanded the year 1 pilot inventory focusing next on the lower eastern shore of Maryland including the Atlantic Coastal Bays, south of the Choptank watershed pilot study area to the Virginia border, and lower western shore from Anne Arundel County to St. Mary’s County. The third year focused on completing the upper eastern shore.

The Working Waterfront sites that were inventoried as part of the completed phases are displayed as points on Maryland’s Coastal Atlas as a MD iMap hosted service titled “Working Waterfronts Points”.

The points are attributed with the Facility Inventory, Specific Services (relevant to commercial fishing), and Physical Attribute data collected through the inventory field work.  Some of the publicly accessible points are additionally attributed with site photographs.

Map Service Link: http://geodata.md.gov/imap/rest/services/Society/MD_WorkingWaterfronts/MapServer

Maryland Coastal Atlas Link: http://dnr2.maryland.gov/ccs/Pages/coastalatlas.aspx​​