Things You Can Do to Help Protect the Chesapeake Bay

Things You Can Do to Help Protect the Chesapeake Bay

Do Your Part to Protect the Bay


Plant Trees for the Bay.  Trees growing along the shorelines of the Chesapeake Bay and it’s tributaries are important to the overall health of the Bay. Trees slow down and filter rainwater run-off which can carry harmful pollutants and nutrients to the Bay. Trees also provide habitat for wildlife and help keep stream temperatures cool. Join a volunteer tree planting effort near your community or plant trees on your property.  View a list of recommended native trees for planting in the Chesapeake Bay area.

Dispose of marine wastes properly.  Don’t throw anything overboard while boating; bring it home and dispose of it properly. Do not empty waste from your boat’s head into the water; use the pump-out facilities located at most marinas. More on Clean Boating.

Don’t dump anything down storm drains.  Water that flows through storm drains is not cleaned by a water treatment plant. Storm drains carry water directly to a local stream and eventually into the Bay. 

Practice Careful Catch.  Help conserve our Chesapeake Bay resources by only keeping the fish you’ll use and releasing the rest for another day.

Clean up litter on the shores of the Bay.  Help in the effort to rid the Bay’s shores of ugly and harmful litter. Take an extra trash bag on your Chesapeake Bay outings and collect and bring back any litter you find. Or, take part in an organized litter clean up event such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s annual Clean the Bay Day.

Use BayScaping around your home.  BayScaping is environmentally sound landscaping that benefits people, wildlife, and the Chesapeake Bay. BayScapes are low maintenance; require less mowing, fertilizing, and pesticides; protect water quality in our streams, rivers, and the Bay; and provide habitat for song birds, small mammals, and butterflies. Visit the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s BayScaping Resources for more information.


Buy a Chesapeake Bay License Plate.  Both Maryland and Virginia offer special license plates that support Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. The Maryland “Treasure the Bay” plate costs $20, $12 of which goes to the Chesapeake Bay Trust which provides financial support for Chesapeake Bay education and restoration efforts. The Virginia, “Friend of the Chesapeake” plate costs $25, $15 of which goes to environmental education and restoration projects related to the Chesapeake Bay.

Grow an Oyster Garden.  Oysters are filter feeders that have the ability to filter and clean large amounts of water. The decline of the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay has impacted water quality. You can help increase the oyster population through oyster gardening. Oyster gardens are grown on floats attached to your dock. By placing oysters in a favorable growing environment, maturity can be reached in 18 to 24 months instead of the 4 to 5 years required for natural bottom growth. While growing, the oysters filter the water. Mature oysters can be harvested and eaten or donated to an oyster reef restoration program for planting in the Chesapeake Bay. Check out these links for more information:  the Marylanders Grow Oysters program, or the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program’s Virginia Oyster Gardening Guide.

Practice environmentally sensitive shoreline erosion control.  If your property has an erosion problem, structural controls are not necessarily the best answer. Erosion can often be controlled with less destructive, and less expensive means such as planting shoreline vegetation. In Virginia, contact the Shoreline Erosion Advisory Service for more information. In Maryland, contact the Department of Natural Resources’ Shoreline Conservation Service.

Clean Boating

While our boats can provide us with a great deal of enjoyment, we all need to realize that the use of thousands of boats on the Chesapeake Bay can have an impact on the Bay’s ecosystem. Follow these clean boating tips. 

  • Don’t let trash get thrown or blown overboard.

  • If trash blows overboard, retrieve it & consider it “crew overboard” practice.

  • Pack food in reusable containers.

  • Fill portable fuel tanks on shore, where you are less likely to spill and where spills are easier to clean up.

  • Keep your engine well tuned. No leaking seals, gaskets, or hoses.

  • Place oil absorbing material in the bilge.

  • Never discharge bilge water with a sheen. It’s illegal.

  • Wash your boat frequently with a sponge and plain water.

  • Use phosphate free, biodegradable, and non-toxic cleaners.

  • Use alternatives to toxic bottom paints.