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Researchers note progress in bay restoration efforts

Courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program 

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Today, the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) released its annual report on environmental health and restoration in the Chesapeake Bay watershed at an event at the Annapolis Maritime Museum. The Bay Barometer: Health and Restoration in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed 2016 – 2017 is a science-based snapshot of the nation’s largest estuary that features data and information gathered by the Bay Program’s many partners. It notes a continued improvement in the health of the Chesapeake Bay: a positive sign that restoration efforts are working.

The resiliency of the Chesapeake Bay is revealed by the 20 indicators of environmental health, restoration and stewardship in the Bay Barometer. Experts observed positive trends in many of the indicators that were updated in 2016 and 2017, including:

Underwater Grasses (Submerged Aquatic Vegetation, or SAV): Fifty-three percent of the outcome to achieve and sustain 185,000 acres of underwater grasses in the Bay—including 130,000 acres by 2025—has been met.

Blue Crab Abundance: Over 100 percent of the outcome to maintain a sustainable target of 215 million adult female blue crabs has been achieved. Fish Passage: Over 100 percent of the outcome to restore historical fish migration routes by opening 1,000 additional stream miles to fish passage has been achieved.

Estimated Pollution Reduced: Computer simulations show that pollution controls put in place in the Chesapeake Bay watershed between 2009 and 2016 lowered nitrogen loads by nine percent, phosphorus loads by 20 percent and sediment loads by nine percent. Pollution-reducing practices are in place to achieve 33 percent of the nitrogen reductions, 81 percent of the phosphorus reductions and 57 percent of the sediment reductions necessary to attain clean water standards.
Water Quality Standards Achieved: Forty percent of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries met water quality standards between 2014 and 2016, the highest amount ever recorded.

This year, data was assessed for the first time for three new indicators: Environmental Literacy and Planning, Student Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences and Citizen Stewardship.

Watershed residents play a significant role in the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay. This year, the partnership acknowledged the actions that watershed residents are taking to protect clean water and restore environmental health—including how much of the region has volunteered or spoken out on behalf of the environment—through the first ever Citizen Stewardship Index and through the recognition of the efforts of volunteers and citizen scientists to collect monitoring data from the many local waterways that wind through the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Through the Citizen Monitoring Cooperative, these groups and individuals can obtain technical support and help in developing their monitoring programs and add their data to a central location for others to use.

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