The Chesapeake has suffered from the effects of more than two centuries of steady growth, increasing pollution and runoff, and accumulation of sediment and industrial wastes. However, the ailing bay ecosystem has begun to rebound, largely because of the efforts of the Chesapeake Bay Program over the past decade. This is a unique public- private endeavor composed of governments in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia working with the federal government and local citizens and businesses. The major environmental problems of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries were investigated by a comprehensive study initiated by the U.S. Government in 1975 at the request of Congress. As a result of this research, management strategies to control nutrients, toxins, wetlands alteration, shoreline erosion, hydrologic modification, and dredging were implemented. Strategies for managing shoreline development and the effects of boating and shipping on water quality were also developed.
In 1985, Maryland and Virginia imposed a moratorium on striped bass fishing in response to extremely low catches, overharvesting, and survey data about spawning. The states lifted their moratorium in 1990 after a successful spawn of the species in the upper and lower bay, but tight regulation of the fishery continues. Biologists, however, have now logged record numbers of newly spawned fish in the bay and project continued population increases in the years ahead. Declaring recovery of the striped bass has cleared the way for relaxation of catch restrictions in the Chesapeake.
Interdisciplinary research ranging from understanding the behavior and transport of nutrient and toxic chemicals in the watershed, to fish population dynamics and predictive modeling contributed to the management strategies taken. Scientists and resource managers hope to apply lessons from the striped bass conservation effort to other important fish stocks that are declining all along the east coast.