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Marine Life in the Harbor

Despite Baltimore's polluted water, over 18 different species of aquatic life have been identified living in the Inner Harbor. Pollutants such as arsenic, mercury, lead, benzene and DDT enter the water through industrial processes and urban run off. These toxins accumulate in sediment and over time make their way into the tissues of fish and crabs through water, food, and air intake, making them unsafe for human consumption. On some occasions, fish will develop bloody lesions caused by protozoans that are made toxic by excess nutrient enrichment. At times, lack of dissolved oxygen, changes in salinity and temperature, and sewage spills can cause massive fish kills, destroying thousands of Harbor fish.

It is surprising that these fish, crabs, and invertebrates still survive in water of such poor quality. The following is a list of animals that have been seen living in the Harbor as recently as this year.

You may also wish to download this more extensive description or check out this video of fish swimming in the Inner Harbor.

Essential for scientific research, the mummichog is an indicator species in severely polluted systems and can survive at very low oxygen levels. In the Harbor... Show More »
A relative of the striped bass, a widely popular catch, the white perch is silvery with faint lines, a forked tail, and a protruding jaw. The Harbor’s... Show More »
The Atlantic Menhaden are filter feeders, meaning they swim with their mouths open and strain water through their gills to filter out plankton. They are inedible... Show More »
Despite its red hue when cooked, the blue crab has bright blue claws with red tips, swimming and walking legs, and a shell that is twice as wide as it is long.... Show More »
The Atlantic sea nettle has a smooth, milky white bell and up to 24 stinging tentacles. Their tentacles are used to entangle, paralyze, and capture their prey,... Show More »
The Atlantic Silverside is a small, schooling fish with a distinct silver band on the side. Silversides are very common subjects for scientific research because... Show More »
The pumpkinseed sunfish is known for its mottled orange, blue, and green body and its willingness to bite. The Harbor’s recent low salinity levels may... Show More »
The comb jellies do not have stinging tentacles and are marked with bright, iridescent bands of color. The main species of comb jelly found in the Baltimore area... Show More »
With its shallow waters, rocky bottoms, and substantial boat population, barnacles flourish in the Harbor. Barnacles have a top opening with two valves that open... Show More »
The Atlantic ribbed mussel is found in the Harbor attached to surfaces by thread-like glands, or buried in mud. It is a bivalve mollusk with glossy, ribbed... Show More »
Sea slugs are soft-bodied, shell-less mollusks with oral tentacles on the head, sensory tentacles on the back, and various gills and growths on the top of the... Show More »
This whitish relative of the sea nettle is found on rocks, pilings, and other surfaces in shallow water. The anemone has a circle of 40 to 60 petal-like... Show More »
One of the most abundant species in the Chesapeake Bay is the spot fish, also known as the “Norfolk spot.” Spot are unique in that it is a member of... Show More »
More than 110 species of bristle worms have been identified in the Bay. The whip mud worm is a bristle worm that builds burrows in which it lives. The mud worm... Show More »
Only visible under a microscope, bryozoans are aquatic organisms living in colonies of interconnected individuals. There are 125 known species, but the most... Show More »