The health of our bays depends heavily on underwater grasses.
These grass beds provide food and shelter for fish, blue crabs, and other important aquatic species. The grass also adds very important oxygen to the water supply while absorbing pollution. They also pull sediment down to settle on the floor of the bay, lessening shore erosion.
Video produced by Matt Rath of the Chesapeake Bay Program
Many of those working in and around the Chesapeake Bay have adopted scientifically vetted management approaches to bring grass beds back to previous levels. The strategies include:
- Improving habitat conditions, specifically by replanting grasses in areas they are most likely to grow well; introducing heat-tolerant species to areas of the bay that are warming; and advocating for minimizing shoreline modifications.
- Reducing human impacts by educating people throughout the watershed, as well as advocating for regulations to reduce sedimentation from land use; refrain from altering shorelines; and practice safe fishing and boating.
- Restoration science, including research to identify the best methods to ensure healthy habitats for growing the grasses.
And the good news is, all of this is working! In 2016, a program to map many acres of grasses making a comeback in the bay exceeded 50 percent of its 2025 goal! More than 92,000 acres of underwater grasses were mapped!
RETTEW has offices throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and we’ve been heavily involved in working with local governments, utilities, businesses, and conservation agencies to continually educate the public and reduce human impact on the bay. Particularly in the areas of sediment and pollution reduction, our engineers and stormwater managers have helped improve many sites to lessen pollution to the bay. And our biologists are all well versed on the changes and effects within the aquatic world.
If you spend time on the bay, you can help by downloading the Water Reporter App and use it to upload photos and locations of underwater grasses you see growing!