Chesapeake Bay critters score an A! The Bay overall: C

The health of nation’s largest estuary — the Chesapeake Bay — has improved. A lot, according scientists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). But it has over 300 years of pollution to overcome, so scientists give the Bay an overall grade of C (54%). 

However, blue crab, striped bass (aka rockfish) and bay anchovy (tiny fish) are doing great. The Fisheries Index measuring fish populations “greatly improved” to an A (90%).

“We are happy to see that our beloved Chesapeake Bay continues its recovery. These scientifically rigorous report card results are telling us that we are indeed heading in the right direction,” said Dr. Bill Dennison, Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

The Eco Health Report Card says there’s overall improvement in the Bay’s health, due mainly to decrease nutrient levels, but it still has poor to moderate conditions.

But it is getting better, slowly. The Chesapeake Bay scored a 50% in 2014, 53% in 2015 and 54% in 2016.

The healthiest sections are the main southern Bay, with most of the upper Bay and tributaries doing okay. A few rivers are still in bad shape.

Chesapeake Bay "Eco Health report card" for 2016
Chesapeake Bay “Eco Health report card” by region for 2016 (courtesy the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science)

Here’s a look at how the Chesapeake Bay’s heath has changed over the years. Areas will improve and decline depending on a range of factors. It’s a constant work in progress.

In worst shape: Patapsco and Black Rivers (27%), Elizabeth River (31%), York River (31%) and Lower Western Shore (35%).

Best areas on the Chesapeake Bay: Lower Eastern Shore (58%), Upper Bay (54%), Rappahannock River (52%) and Choptank River (50%).

The rest of the Bay ranged in the 40-percentile.

Graph of overall Chesapeake Bay health trends
To compare how each region did from 1986 to 2016, click on the map to go to the interactive report version. (Courtesy UMCES)

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