The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary* in the United States. Its watershed** stretches across more than 64,000 square miles, encompassing parts of six states – Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia – and the District of Columbia. Its waters provide homes, food, and protection for 2,700 species of animals and plants. It also serves as a highway for commerce, a playground, a storehouse of food, and a home for the 13 million people who live in its vast watershed. It is the source of a fish and shellfish industry worth more than $850 million per year.
But in recent years, the Chesapeake has become less able to support the fish and wildlife it once did. Increasing amounts of excess nutrients, sediment, and toxic substances are causing serious problems in the Bay. Studies show alarming declines in fish and wildlife and in the habitat available to them. In spite of cleanup efforts, the health of the Chesapeake Bay remains very poor.
What You Can Do
* An estuary is a body of water formed where freshwater from rivers and streams flows into the ocean, mixing with the seawater.
** A watershed is an area of land that drains water, sediment, and dissolved materials to a common outlet.