The overall health of the Chesapeake Bay improved to a “C+” on the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s annual report card. The “moderate” score is the bay’s highest grade since 2002.

Of the 15 regions of the Chesapeake, 11 showed “improved” scores and five regions showed “significant improving trends,” according to UMCES.

“There is still much to do, but this is a strong indicator of progress,” EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz said in a statement.

The Chesapeake Bay and Watershed Report Card includes measurements of ecological, societal and economic indicators. The report evaluates the health of the bay itself and the health of the watershed that surrounds and feeds into the bay.

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Bay indicators include the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water; the amount of dissolved oxygen present at different depths; how clear the water is; the health of aquatic grasses; and the condition of organisms living in and on the bottom of the bay.

Watershed indicators include the health of the streams; the amount of protected lands in the watershed; and socioeconomic factors such as heat vulnerability, walkability and job growth.

The report card shows things are moving in the right direction, said Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, the president of UMCES, in a statement. But he added that “we need to pick up the pace of these efforts particularly in light of climate change, which will make meeting the targets more difficult.”

Like last year, the ecological and societal categories rated worse on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia compared to other regions, according to UMCES.

The upper bay, Patapsco River and Back River all saw significant improvements over time, according to the report. The upper western shore of the bay, roughly between the Middle River and Bush River near Abingdon, saw the largest decline of any region.

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The overall health of the watershed around the Chesapeake Bay received a “C” grade, the same as last year.

After the report card was issued, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said there has been improvement but far too much pollution is still entering the bay.

“This puts us at a critical moment for the Bay movement,” said Alison Prost, the foundation’s vice president for environmental protection and restoration, in a statement. “We’ll be unable to tackle the significant challenges ahead unless governors across the Chesapeake Bay watershed publicly recommit to continue working together for a healthy Bay.”

Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Josh Kurtz said the report card shows the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement — a written pact that guides restoration of the bay and its watershed across six states and Washington, D.C. — is strong.

“In Maryland, we’re using data and partnerships to improve coastal resilience, increase stream health, plant millions of new trees, and add more public access to the waterfront and natural areas,” he said in a statement. “A cleaner Chesapeake Bay provides for a healthy society and a robust economy. We’re proud to work with partner states and the federal government to continue making progress toward a cleaner Bay for everyone.”

This year’s 2023/2024 report card is based on data from 2023. The cards have previously been named for the year the data was collected; going forward, they will be named for the year they are released.