As the largest estuary in the United States, the Chesapeake Bay serves not only as a vital habitat for wildlife, but also is home to industry, commerce, and livelihoods that depends on its resources and waterways. People from all over are drawn to the Bay’s attractions, spanning from recreational to educational opportunities.
Quick facts about the Bay:
- 11,864 – miles of shoreline
- 9,000 – number of active watermen supported by the Bay
- 4,479 – surface area of the Bay in square miles
- 540 – species of fish, shellfish, and crabs in the Bay
- 150 – major rivers and streams draining into the Bay
Concerns with the Bay:
- Pollution caused by runoff from urban areas and farms
- Loss of natural shorelines, wetlands, forests, open space, underwater grasses, oyster reefs, and other habitats that provide the Bay its natural resiliency
- Invasive foreign species
- Home to a large annual marine dead zone
- Weakened food chain
- Decimated oyster population, leaving the Bay without one of its natural filtration systems
- Dramatic declines in American shad, Atlantic menhaden, and various species of underwater grasses
While the health of the Chesapeake Bay is beginning to improve—thanks to decades of restoration efforts—more work remains to be done to truly save the Bay. Organizations such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation work towards improving water quality in the Bay and its rivers and streams by engaging and educating the public, through hands-on restoration, public advocacy and litigation.