A chilling breeze blew across Thomas Point yesterday as students from Broadneck and Southern senior high schools passed a gray bucket, hand-to-hand, down the line and back.
On a beach facing the mouth ofthe South River, Jim Van Tasser emptied the buckets into the Chesapeake Bay.
Within 15 minutes, the bucket brigade had introduced about 250 striped bass, or rockfish, to the waters their parents called home.
"It's fun watching people undo what they did," said Lora Pumphrey, a Southern sophomore. "It's neat watching people give the bay a second chance to live."
Striped bass, a popular food and sporting fish now protected by the state, were once plentiful in the bay, a traditional spawning area. But their numbers dwindled due to overfishing and deteriorating water quality.
Since 1985, the state has released more than 4.5 million hatchery-bred striped bass into the bay, said Van Tasser, a leader for the Department of Natural Resources anadromous fish restoration project.
The DNR supplied the fish released yesterday at the county's 44-acre Thomas Point Park, south of Annapolis. The demonstration was organized by the county Department of Utilities as part of national Coast Weeks, a celebration largely ignored in previous years.
Anne Arundel has 432 miles of shoreline, more than anyother Maryland county.
"We've organized activities around the county to call attention to our natural areas and to get people to thinkabout preserving them," said Louise Hayman, spokeswoman for County Executive Robert R. Neall.
On Sept. 25, 160 county workers, who volunteered to "take the day off" from their normal Wednesday duties, carted 60 tons of trash, tires and abandoned appliances from Beverly Triton Park in Mayo. The county will judge a Coast Weeks photo contest Oct. 9.
Two community associations have scheduled erosion-control projects Oct. 12. The Belvedere Community Association in Arnold will build a walkway to Cool Spring Cove off the Magothy River, and the Elizabeth's Landing Community Association in Pasadena will work on a storm drain along Stony Creek.
Although the county executive was scheduled to attend, Neall was absent. Hayman said he was "behind closeddoors" examining how Gov. William Donald Schaefer's $450 million spending cuts will hurt the county.
Ironically, the cuts will also eliminate part of the rockfish-restocking program, which drew groans from the students.
"It's reassuring to know things like this are happening," Christie Davis, a senior at Broadneck, said of the fish release. "Giving back what we have taken -- it needs to happen more."
"We're always taking from the bay," Utilities Director Tom Neel said."I'm glad to see so many young people here to put this resource back."
The number of fish released yesterday was small, said Ben Florence, chief of state's finfish hatcheries. But the activity was "not trivial. I want to get across the point that everybody can do a part. It gives everybody a symbolic participation."
Pat Niedhardt, a teacher at Broadneck, agreed. "Reading about a fish hatchery project in the newspaper the next day is nothing like the direct experience of seeing it and participating," she said.