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Secretary’s Message: July 2018

Chesapeake Bay Health Earning High Marks

Photo of Secretary Mark Belton speaking at Chesapeake Bay Report Card eventThe change is real.

The health of Chesapeake Bay is improving, according to the 2017 Chesapeake Bay Report Card issued by our partners at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, which used data from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and our counterparts in Virginia.

The report card is just one of many indicators of bay progress as we continue marching toward 2025. While the overall grade of “C” has remained steady since 2012, this marks the first year that experts have seen what they call a “statistically significant” positive trend for the entire bay.

The grade is based on several indicators of overall bay health. Long-term trends in nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations are declining. Underwater bay grasses or submerged aquatic vegetation have shown record increases for three consecutive years, and is now 57 percent toward its baywide goal, well ahead of schedule.

And this year’s report shows a 95 percent grade for fish populations, five points higher than last year. This index includes blue crab, striped bass and anchovy, which are ecologically, economically and socially important bay species. Sustained efforts and sustainable management are protecting and supporting healthy fisheries.

The benchmarks that help define our success are crucial to know where we’ve been, and where we are going, but it’s not time to rest on our laurels. We must continue investing in sound science and measurable management and monitoring to build on this success – and hold each watershed jurisdiction to account.

Chesapeake Bay restoration is a team effort, and it is because of our engaged communities and watershed partners we are seeing a cleaner and healthier bay. The health of the bay begins in our communities and neighborhoods, and our local streams and tributaries throughout the watershed.

Many of us have acted, advocated, invested and sacrificed in this effort, and we are seeing results. We have made lots of progress to date, but we still have a way to go. The latest report card proves we are on the right track.

“This positive trend is evidence that Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts are having an impact on improving conditions in the Chesapeake Bay.” – 2017 Chesapeake Bay Report Card