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Discover the Chesapeake

The Chesapeake Bay - the largest estuary in the United States - is an incredibly complex ecosystem that includes important habitats and food webs. The Bay and its rivers, wetlands and forests provide homes, food and protection for diverse groups of animals and plants. Fish of all types and sizes either live in the Bay and its tributaries year-round or visit its waters as they migrate along the East Coast.

Bay 101

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Bay 101: Fish Food

Find out what larger fish like striped bass and bluefish eat to survive in the Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed

A watershed is an area of land that drains to a particular river, lake, bay or other body of water. Watersheds are sometimes called “basins” or "drainage basins."

We all live in a watershed. Some watersheds, like that of your local stream or creek, are small. Others, like the Chesapeake Bay watershed, are very large. Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Bay Ecosystem

An ecosystem is a complex set of relationships among living and non-living things. Air, water, soil, sunlight, plants and animals – including humans – make up an ecosystem. Ecosystems can be as tiny as a patch of dirt in your backyard, or as large as the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Bay Ecosystem

The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is an extremely productive and complex ecosystem. The Bay ecosystem consists of the Bay itself, its local rivers and streams, and all the plants and animals it supports. Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.

Critter Of The Month

Atlantic Silverside
Menidia menidia

The Atlantic silverside is a small forage fish with a silver band along either side of its body. It can be found in schools in the Bay, and is an important part of many larger fishes’ diets.

Chesapeake History

2014

2014
  • The Chesapeake Executive Council signs the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which contains goals and outcomes that will guide conservation and restoration across the watershed. For the first time, the Bay’s headwater states commit to those goals that reach beyond water quality.

2013

2013
  • A federal judge rules that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can set pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay, thus upholding the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) that was challenged in court in 2011.

2012

2012
  • Harris Creek becomes the first target of the oyster restoration goals set forth in the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order: to restore oyster populations in 20 Bay tributaries by 2025. In this Choptank River tributary, existing reefs will be studied, new bars will be built and spat-on-shell will be planted.

2011

2011
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues a new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Permit to the District of Columbia. It is the first of its kind to incorporate green infrastructure into its requirements, setting a national model for stormwater management.

2010

2010
  • Maryland, Virginia and New York ban phosphates in dishwasher detergent to lower phosphorous pollution in local waterways.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency establishes the Total Maximum Daily Load to limit the amount of pollutants that can enter the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The Bay Program launches ChesapeakeStat to improve communication about restoration goals, progress and funding.

Bay FAQ


What is the deepest part of the Chesapeake Bay?


Why has the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population declined over time?


What large cities are in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?


What does "Chesapeake" mean?


How do forest buffers benefit the Chesapeake Bay?


What are invasive species?


Why are estuaries important?


What are impervious surfaces?


How many people live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?


What is a tributary?

See more FAQs.

Bay Glossary

Venom

A poisonous fluid produced by an animal that is transmitted by a bite or a sting. Venom is used to capture prey or as a means of defense.

Sedimentation

The accumulation of sediment in an area, filling shipping channels and covering oysters and other bottom-dwelling organisms. Sedimentation is also called siltation.

Overwinter

To remain alive or viable throughout the winter.

Permeable

Having pores or openings that allow water to pass through.

Light attenuation

Reduction in the amount of light that can penetrate through the water, usually caused by excess suspended sediment or algae blooms.

Baseline

The numeric level of pollution coming from a source during a particular time period, which is used as a standard to measure future reduction goals and allowances against.

Emissions

Pollution released or discharged into the air from natural or man-made sources, including vehicles, smokestacks and the spraying of aerosols.

Salt marsh

Wetlands that are located in salt water areas and are dominated by cordgrass, also called Spartina. Salt marshes are one of the most productive plant communities on earth.

See more bay terms.

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