Delaware Bay, United States

Shorebirds walks amidst Horseshoe crabs along the coast of Delaware Bay.

5. Description

Delaware Bay is an estuary outlet of Delaware River in the United States along the Northeast Seaboard. This Bay is 2,030 square kilometers in area, and it mixes with the salt water of Atlantic Ocean. The shores of Delaware Bay are composed of mud flats and salt marshes and inhabited by small communities. Smaller rivers and streams, namely the Leipsic River, Christina River, and St. Jones River, on the Delaware side also feed it, and on the New Jersey side surrounding inflows include the Maurice River, Salem River, and Cohansey River.

4. Historical Role

The proper formation of Delaware Bay was said to have occurred somewhere around 5,000 years ago. However, with the arrival of the Europeans in the 17th Century, they discovered that the Native Americans call it Poutaxat, meaning "near the falls". In the year 1609, it was claimed by the Dutch India Company, which called it Godins Bay. The name Delaware came into existence after the English took over the Bay in 1667 with the Treaty of Breda. It saw the rise of the largest inhabited city in North America in the 18th Century. After this, consecutive wars took place and it was taken over by the new American nation, and other names given to it were the Zuyt Bay and the South Bay. On May 20th, 1992, it was designated as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and the first site classified as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.

3. Modern Significance

In Delaware Bay, towns are tucked right up to the bay, which provides easy access into the water. The area has low-lying landscapes, groves of trees, and vast marshlands. This is an ideal tourist destination for fishing, hunting, and boating. The coastal area see the view of migration of shorebirds. Visitors throng the areas like Bowers Beach. where tourists can go for fishing and hunting, jet skiing, sail boarding, and sea glass hunting. One can also see the Kitts Hummock section of the Coastal Heritage Route 9 Byway, the St. Jones Reserve, and the Ted Harvey Conservation Area. Tourists may enjoy dining in at Rehoboth, the tax-free stores near Delaware Resorts, Dewey Beach, musical acts at Freeman Stage at Bayside, visits to local crab houses which are well known for their blue-claw crab, and much more.

2. Habitat and Biodiversity

The Delaware Bay area holds extreme importance for migratory shorebirds, and most of all by the rufa subspecies of the Red Knot. The wetlands also provide habitats for Bald eagles, ospreys, migratory waterfowl, migrating raptors, Northern harrier, and Yellow- and Black-crowned night herons. Conservation of several endangered species like Piping Plovers, Snow Geese, Short-eared owls, and Shortnose Sturgeons also takes place here. The area is also famous for the Horseshoe crabs found along the Atlantic Coast.

1. Environmental Threats and Conservation

Delaware Bay experiences threats due to human disturbances like fishing, birding, walking, and eco-tourism, each of which disrupts both its terrestrial creatures and marine life. The use of all-terrain vehicles, the commercialization of horseshoe crab harvesting, domestic dogs chasing the birds, and the use of its waters for oil shipping transportation are other problems. However, the area has increasingly been coming under state and Federal ownership and protection. These governments have also drafted a large-scale plan for protecting these tidal wetlands and conserving their shorebird habitats.


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