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Chesapeake Bay News


Bay Barometer Released; Annual Assessment Shows 38 Percent of Bay Health Goals Met in 2008

Despite increased restoration efforts throughout the watershed, the Chesapeake’s health did not improve in 2008, according to the Bay Program’s annual report, Bay Barometer: A Health and Restoration Assessment of the Chesapeake Bay and Watershed in 2008.

Due to its polluted waters, degraded habitats and low populations of key fish and shellfish species, the Bay’s health averaged 38 percent. 100 percent represents a fully restored ecosystem.

Some statistics on the health of the Bay in 2008 include:

  • 16 percent of open, deep and deep channel waters in the Bay and its tributaries met dissolved oxygen standards in summer 2008. This is an increase of four points from 2007.
  • 14 percent of tidal waters met water clarity criteria in 2008, a slight increase from 2007.
  • 120 million adult blue crabs were counted in the Bay in 2008, which is 60 percent of the 200-million-crab goal. This is a substantial drop from 2007, when 143 million adult crabs were counted.
  • In 2008, there were 76,861 acres of bay grasses throughout the Bay – 42 percent of the goal and an increase of 11,984 acres from 2007.

“While there are small successes in certain parts of the ecosystem and specific geographic areas, the sobering data in this report reflect only marginal shifts from last year’s results,” said Bay Program Director Jeffrey Lape.

Bay Barometer also reviews restoration efforts that took place across the Chesapeake’s 64,000-square-mile watershed. As of 2008, Bay Program partners had put into place 61 percent of efforts needed for a restored Bay.

One restoration goal that was met in 2008 was land preservation. Bay Program partners have exceeded their goal to permanently protect from development 7.3 million acres of land – which is 20 percent of the combined watershed land area in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.

“Preserving more than 7 million acres of land is a tremendous success for the partners of the Chesapeake Bay Program and the citizens of the region,” said Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine, chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council.

Other restoration highlights from 2008 included:

  • Efforts to reduce agricultural pollution largely stayed the same as in 2007; Bay Program partners have met approximately half of the goals to control nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from farms.
  • The score tracking reductions in phosphorus from wastewater treatment plants increased by four percent to 91 percent of goal achieved; however, the wastewater nitrogen reduction goal fell by 2 percent to 67 percent.
  • 70 percent of the oyster reef restoration goal has been achieved. In 2008, 943 acres of oyster reefs were treated.
  • 51 miles of freshwater streams were opened to migratory fish in 2008, bringing the total to 2,317 miles, or 83 percent of the goal.

One of the Bay’s greatest challenges is population growth and development, which destroys forests, wetlands and other natural areas. The impacts of human activity are offsetting efforts to clean up the Bay.

Because of the influence of the Bay watershed’s 17 million residents, Bay Barometer includes a section that shows seven simple actions people can take to help restore the Bay and its local waterways:

  • Skip the lawn fertilizer
  • Pick up after your pet
  • Install rain barrels and rain gardens
  • Plant trees and shrubs
  • Drive less
  • Use a phosphate-free dishwasher detergent
  • Volunteer for a local watershed group

For more information about the data included in Bay Barometer, view a PDF of the full report or see additional details on each indicator in our Bay Barometer section.


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