Captain John Smith’s descriptions of “a very goodly Bay” provide a benchmark from which we can see the consequences of 400 years of change.
For thousands of years before colonists arrived, the American Indians had lived gently on the Chesapeake landscape. Part of a balanced ecosystem, they took the resources they needed without making permanent, harmful changes.
But the European settlers - attracted here in large part by Smith’s reports of the Bay’s bounty - set in motion momentous changes that drastically impacted the health of the Bay. Each new generation cleared land, consumed resources, and introduced technology and pollutants to contribute to the Bay’s decline.
Through modern science we understand how ecosystems operate and what is needed to improve the health of the Bay. Seeing the Chesapeake Bay through the eyes of Captain John Smith helps us to set goals for restoring the Bay to its prime.
The Bay’s health is measured with a set of indicators that represent major components of the Bay ecosystem: water quality, habitats and lower food web, and fish and shellfish. Partners in the Chesapeake Bay Program have set quantitative goals for each of the indicators. An annual assessment measures the progress in meeting those goals.
Achieving the goals in each area would represent a fully restored ecosystem. Bay partners have developed science-based plans to improve the waters, habitats, and fisheries of the Chesapeake. It will take a huge collective effort and long-term commitment of everyone in the watershed for these efforts to be successful.
There are several ways you can check the health of the Bay:
Did You Know?
Learn more about Bay Health