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Trawling for Trash in the Chesapeake Bay
Sailing down the Rhode River along Maryland’s Western Shore is certainly a blissful way to wring one more day out of the long Labor Day weekend. Unlike other boaters out on the water, Julie Lawson was looking for trouble. She finds it everywhere she looks on the bay, though it’s nearly invisible to anyone else: plastic. In particular, particulate plastic.

Plastic detritus can be found throughout the Chesapeake Bay, especially in its underwater grasses. That’s a problem for several reasons. The bay’s underwater grasses, also known as submerged aquatic vegetation, represent a vital part of the estuary ecosystem (not to mention Maryland’s economy). Grass beds provide shelter for fish and crabs, stabilize the shoreline against erosion, and absorb nutrients from and return oxygen to the water.

Take a sample from the surface waters near the shallow shelves where underwater grasses grow, and you’ll find more plastic than you might expect.


 
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