Bay underwater grass acreage down for the second year in a row

August 4, 2021
 |
Chesapeake Bay Seagrass

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) – The acreage of underwater grasses in the Chesapeake Bay shrank for the second year in a row in 2020, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Aerial surveys showed a total of 62,169 acres of the underwater grasses that serve as a home to small blue crabs and many fish, The Daily Press reported. That’s a decrease of 7% from 2019 and 42% from 2018 and far below the program’s target of 130,000 acres by 2025.

Pollution and sediment, which block sunlight, remain a challenge, according to a program report released last week. Also, warmer water and extreme weather can kill underwater plant life. The biggest acreage declines came in the moderately salty water of Tangier Sound, the mouth of the Choptank River and in the Little Choptank River, where an estimated 5,684 acres of grasses disappeared.

The results of the survey are “disappointing and a stark reminder that the job of restoring the Chesapeake Bay is far from over,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation Science and Agricultural Policy Director Beth McGee said. With the 2025 deadline looming, states need to boost investment in strategies to cut pollution, particularly from farms, she said.

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