Reporting Alex DeMetrick
BALTIMORE (WJZ) – If it was your report card, you’d probably be reluctant to show it to your parents.
But, as Alex DeMetrick reports, while grading the bay’s health, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation did find some signs of improvement.
This is how the Chesapeake begins. Over thousands of square miles, water carries runoff from the land. And it adds up.
“The Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams are overloaded with nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment. And so that’s where the effort has been placed to reduce pollution,” said Will Baker, Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
How the effort is paying off was revealed in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Report Card on the bay’s health, which showed grades ranging from Fs to a single A. That one high mark was for the healthy population of rockfish in the bay.
Blue crabs scored a B+. After populations showed signs of collapse, new regulations restricting the catch brought a resurgence.
“We’ve seen more crabs in the Chesapeake Bay since the early years of the survey. We see high abundance of spawning adults. We’ve seen high levels of recruitment in juvenile crabs,” said Lynn Fegler, DNR Fisheries.
Those are the bright spots. At the other end are the low marks.
For water clarity, critical for sunlight to reach growing underwater grasses, the grade is F, although the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water — needed for marine life — did improve slightly.
Hovering between an F and a D, and showing another slight improvement, was a reduction in the nitrogen that feeds algae blooms and triggers dead zones.
“Every state has played a part in the pollution reduction, the habitat restoration, the fisheries management that has led our health index to modestly increase,” said Baker.
This year’s score was 32 points. Seventy would represent a saved bay.
While scores have been slow to rise, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says the bay’s health has been inching upwards during the past five years.