Ask about my first love -- and I’d tell you about the Chesapeake Bay.

From the time I could only toddle I’ve been traversing the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, stirring up sulfuric muck from Mayo Beach to the shores of the St. Mary’s and the Susquehanna.  I think when you grow up in a place, it becomes a part of you.  For no place could this be truer than the Chesapeake Bay. 

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Photo: A fishing expedition where Mollie caught a large cobia hiding beneath the surface.

The Chesapeake is vast in its beauty, but for me the treasures of the Chesapeake lie hidden beneath brackish waves.  I first fell in love with the Chesapeake through angling, the art of catching fish.  Spurred on by my dad, a marine journalist by profession, fishing comes with the territory of being born into my family.  I’ll always remember countless October sunsets spent chasing schools of hungry Striped Bass, using the feeding birds in tow as a native-guide.  When we learn the ebb and flow of the bite, over time, it exposes the tendencies of creatures who call this hidden world home.

I’m so excited to be working for IPC and with congregations across the Lower Shore to help them be the best stewards that they can.  I wholeheartedly believe that the work IPC does is important and can lead us to a healthier Bay, so that future Chesapeake children can have the chance to form their own Chesapeake stories, just like I did.  

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Photo: From elementary school to her college days at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, St. Mary’s Lake has been a reliable fishing hole.

But, generations of anglers have lived lives devoid of one creature native to the Bay, who ruled these vast waters long before the arrival of any human: Atlantic Sturgeon. Near-alien looking in appearance, these armored fish were once so plentiful across the Chesapeake that they were used as fertilizer. For a time, they were one of the Chesapeake’s largest exports. By the early 1900’s their population had been decimated from a mixture of habitat degradation and gross over-fishing. In fact, their home has been so altered and changed that they were nearly declared extinct Bay-wide. Their future, now definitively intertwined with our choices.  

To me, restoring these fish are emblematic of what IPC is working for. A flourishing Chesapeake where sacred waters and creatures are protected by faithful stewards of the Bay. Atlantic sturgeon are calling for us to advocate for them: they need clean waters and a healthy Bay to survive here, just like us. Care and love are required to protect these creatures - our faiths compel us to act.

Photos: Mollie and Bonnie Sorak at Salisbury Riverfest (above) & Map of Marshyhope Creek on the Nanticoke River (below).

Love for the Bay arises through a variety of avenues, from fishing to birding, eating seafood to driving the Bridge. In a tumultuous world, the Bay is forever a respite and friend here to support us as we support her.  Love for the Bay brought me to IPC, and drives me to help share its beauty and importance with others.  When we work towards a healthier Bay, we work to make it possible for countless future generations to fall in love, like I did.

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If you are interested in advocating to protect the Atlantic Sturgeon, public comment is being gathered now through October 17 regarding a project that scientists have flagged as posing new threats to the species. You can read up about the Aquacon project online. IPC has not taken an official stance on this project, but we encourage everyone to become informed. Public comments can be received by the Maryland Department of the Environment; send an email to Paul Hlavinka, [email protected].

 

 

Mollie Rudow

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Outreach Coordinator - Lower Eastern Shore