About the State of the Bay Report

Eastern Shore Aerial

Aerial view of the Bay's Eastern Shores.

Bill Portlock/CBF Staff

Since 1998, CBF's State of the Bay report has been tracking the health of the Chesapeake Bay and providing insight into the progress—or lack thereof—being made.

"How's the Chesapeake Bay doing?" It's a question we are frequently asked.

The health of the Chesapeake relies on intricate natural systems that filter water and provide habitat for diverse and abundant life. The State of the Bay report is a comprehensive measure of the Bay's health. CBF scientists measure its health by examining the best available historical and current information for 13 indicators in three categories: pollution, habitat, and fisheries. CBF scientists then assign each indicator an index score between 1 and 100. Taken together, these indicators offer an assessment of the Chesapeake's health. CBF issued its first State of the Bay report in 1998.

The Bay we know today is measured against the healthiest Chesapeake we can describe. A 100 on the index represents the Bay known by the region's Indigenous peoples and European settlers in the early 1600s. It reflects an ecosystem and mode of stewardship that supported dozens of unique tribes, clear water, meadows of underwater grasses, prodigious oyster reefs, and abundant fish and wildlife.

Colonization marked a turning point for the Chesapeake Bay region. Centuries of forceful displacement and destruction of Indigenous people and society, development of the watershed's land into farms and cities, industrialization, and population growth left the Bay ecosystem severely degraded.

While we will never again see the level of abundance experienced prior to colonization and development, we believe a Bay with an index of 70—a saved Bay—is achievable by 2050. This Bay will look much different from what we see today. The water will be much clearer, with enough oxygen to support fish and wildlife, like striped bass. Underwater grass meadows, wetlands, and forests will provide crucial habitat for species like blue crabs and waterfowl. Oyster reefs will grow and give refuge to a diversity of creatures. And freshwater streams will be home to healthy populations of aquatic insects and fish, like brook trout.

This is the Bay we want to see: an ecosystem that nurtures wellbeing and dignity for all its residents and allows nature to flourish. It is a system that is resilient in the face of challenges like climate change, builds community among diverse cultures, and is abundant enough to provide for the needs of all.

201 01 9 7 0S A V E DP R I S T I N ES T A B L EI M P R O V I N G1 9 8 01 9 9 0200 020 1 020 2020 3 020 4 020 5 04 06 08 03 05 07 09 01 0 01 9 6 7C BF F o u n d e d2 0 2 01 9 8 3Fi r s t C h e s a p e a k e B a y A g r e e m e n tA s c o re o f 1 0 0 i n d i c a t e s t h e h e a l t hi e s t C h e sa p e a k e w e c a n d e s c r i b e t h e B a y C a p t a in J o h n S m i t h d e p i c t e d in t h e e a r l y 1 6 0 0 s .2 01 0 2 0 2 51 99 8F i r s t S t a t e o f t h e B a yR e p o r t232732The Chesapeak e Clean W ater Blueprint is the state and fede r al partnership to limit pollution entering the B a y and its ri v ers and streams. If fully implemented, the Blueprint should result in a score of 40 b y 2025.

The Bay Needs You

The 2020 State of the Bay Report makes it clear that the Bay needs our support now more than ever. Your donation helps the Chesapeake Bay Foundation maintain our momentum toward a restored Bay, rivers, and streams for today and generations to come.

Donate Today


Do you enjoy working with others to help clean the Chesapeake Bay? Do you have a few hours to spare? Whether growing oysters, planting trees, or helping in our offices, there are plenty of ways you can contribute.

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