Chesapeake Bay (NASA, LANDSAT Image)

MD - Will the Chesapeake Bay Become a Dead Zone?

The country’s largest estuary is under critical threat from pollution and climate change. The question is: Can it be saved?

In the 4,500-square-mile Chesapeake Bay, the country’s largest estuary, nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater treatment plants and urban and agricultural runoff are continuously suffocating marine life.

“What happens in the Chesapeake Bay is not only important to our residents, but it also impacts seafood industries, recreation and commercial anglers all along the Atlantic coast,” says Allison Colden, executive director of the Maryland office at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an independent conservation organization.

Despite decades of clean up efforts and evolving regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, the bay remains in a critical state. To make matters worse, climate change is compounding the region’s problems. Increased rainfall, which flushes more nutrients into the Chesapeake, and warming water temperatures are making it harder to reverse the damage already done to the bay.

This project was published in partnership with Baltimore Brew and partially supported by generous grants from the Pulitzer Center, the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources.


Narrator: Tom Weaver’s a charter boat captain. He’s been fishing these waters for more than 30 years.

Tom Weaver: It's one of the best fishing spots in the world. It's one of the nicest places to live in the world.

Narrator: The Chesapeake Bay is the country’s largest estuary. It spans over 4,500 square miles. More than double the size of Delaware. And it’s home to 10 million people and 3,600 species of marine life.

It is also an economic powerhouse, producing more than $33 billion in seafood, shipping and tourism each year.

But in the last decade, Weaver says finding fish for clients has become tougher than ever.

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