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Report: Chesapeake Bay Needs Further Cleanup


Wednesday, January 18, 2023   

A biennial report found the health of Chesapeake Bay is in poor condition.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's 2022 State of the Bay report gives the overall health of the bay a D+, which has been the same grade since 2020. Factors include higher rates of pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus, habitat loss from overfishing, and poor health of wetlands and underwater grasses.

Chris Moore, senior scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, noted one thing to improve the health of the bay is the oyster population. Not only are they a food source, they provide many environmental benefits.

"Oysters, in their filtering mechanism, the way they eat, actually can help filter the water; removing some of that nitrogen and phosphorus that are there," Moore explained. "Moving forward, we're excited about the fact that oysters may help us combat sea-level rise and protect some of our shorelines, and things like that in the future."

Though beneficial, the report cautioned oysters are being harvested at higher rates, due in part to oyster reproduction hitting record highs in 2020 and 2021.

Moore found some challenges to improving the health of the bay are higher costs and inflation, climate change, and finding balance between commercial fishing and environmentalism. In spite of the obstacles, he remains optimistic the bay's health will improve.

Some of the first steps to improving Chesapeake Bay's health will take place through legislation. Moore emphasized maintaining funding in the state budget to remove pollution through wastewater treatment plants is important. He added money for farmers to use the right nutrients in soil to prevent runoff would help too.

Moore described other actions which can be taken now to keep the health of the bay on an upward trend.

"Protecting those important habitats that we currently have in place," Moore suggested. "Forested buffers along the shorelines, making sure they're still there. Making sure our farmers can keep farming and that land is not converted to development."

He added the state needs to ensure wetlands are protected, not only from development but also from rising sea levels. According to the National Ocean Service, sea levels along the U.S. coastline are expected to rise 10 to 12 inches in the next three decades.

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