BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A National Marine Sanctuary would be a first for Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay.

The ghost fleet of Mallows Bay are now a big step closer to that designation.

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Mallows Bay sits in a bend of the Potomac River in Charles County. It’s the final resting place of almost 200 ships scuttled here over two centuries. A lot of those wrecks have evolved into lush islands.

“It’s created this wonderful ecosystem where wildlife is thriving and it’s created a wonderful tourism attraction,” says Joel Dunn, president of the Chesapeake Conservancy.

It’s also created a push to have Mallows Bay designated a National Marine Sanctuary.

That process is entering its final stages this year.

“It would be the first National Marine Sanctuary in the Chesapeake Bay and the first in 20 years in this country,” according to Dunn.

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That designation would protect habitat and the wildlife that depends upon Mallows Bay.

Coupled with the draw of the ghost ships, “it will attract all kinds of development,” Dunn says. “Sustainable tourism development.”

According to the Chesapeake Conservancy, outdoor recreation is a $9.5 billion business in Maryland, supporting 85,000 jobs around the bay and its rivers.

A Marine Sanctuary could bring economic life as well as wildlife, to the ghost ships.

If Mallows Bay gets the designation, it would be managed by state and federal governments, as well as Charles County.

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