Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermens Association Scholarship Foundation

Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermens Associations logoIn the fall of 1992, the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association (MSSA) took a major step to protect and preserve the future of recreational fishing in the State. A Scholarship Committee developed the mission, organization structure, rules, and governance documents required to apply for incorporation of a charity that could collect funds and award scholarships to highly qualified students who demonstrated sincere concern for the marine environment and health of the Chesapeake Bay and coastal eco-systems. In 1995, the MSSA Scholarship Foundation Inc. received permission to conduct business as a 501 (c) (3) corporation in compliance with this section of the IRS Code. The Foundation made its first grant of $1000 in that year.

Since then the Foundation has awarded more than $264,000 to 94 young men and women. Graduates who have been recipients of these scholarships have followed careers in environmental research and education, mitigation surveys, fisheries management, animal surgical procedures, and doctoral degrees in biology.

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In the early 1980’s, the environmental condition of the Chesapeake Bay was raised to a crisis level when it became necessary to impose a complete moratorium on the stiped bass fishery.  The stock of this important natural resource had declined to the point where its survival was in question.  Only bold action could save the prime resource that supported a billion dollar commercial and recreational market and was the fish of choice for generations of anglers in the mid-Atlantic region.  MSSA was one of the leaders to fight for the passage of the moratorium and in doing so, increased the awareness of its members to the dangers of declining water quality, loss of marine habitat, and the emergence of new strains of waterborne diseases that were destroying the oyster population and were beginning to be observed in other species including the striped bass

Episodes such as the moratorium gave rise to the issue of sustainability of our marine resources.  In considering how to improve their sustainability, MSSA leadership struck upon the idea of an education-based solution.  If young students graduating from High School or already enrolled in courses of study leading to degrees in marine sciences, environmental engineering/analysis, or natural resources management could be encouraged to earn these degrees, then there was a good chance that they would devote their professional careers to find solutions to the myriad problems that affect the health of both the Chesapeake Bay and our coastal waters.