Dear Governors Moore and Youngkin: All of the tens of thousands of FishTalk readers and I have one thing in common - we love fishing and we love the Chesapeake Bay. And we all share a common problem, in that the ailing health of the Chesapeake and its fisheries has a negative impact on our lives.

the chesapeake bay
The beauty of the Chesapeake can hide the truth of its health. Photo by Kelsey Bonham.

The Bay is the heart and soul of our region. It’s the playground for millions, an economic dynamo, and one of the most impressive and impactful natural wonders of the entire eastern seaboard. And it’s sick. It’s been sick for all my life, and for all of yours as well. Decades ago people such as yourselves in positions of power recognized just how important it was to have a healthy Bay, and in 1983 they put it down on paper in the Chesapeake Bay Agreement. This simple one-page document noted the “historical decline in the living resources of the Chesapeake Bay” and committed to reverse it.

Unfortunately, since the signing of that document, despite heathy doses of both good intention and financial investment, the state of the Bay has not improved. We can point to significant progress in certain areas but there are also many areas of clear and major decline. The bottom line: when it comes to the well-being of the Chesapeake, for 40 years we’ve been treading water, at best.

In some ways this is a win. Between 1980 and 2017 the human population in the Bay region grew from 12.7 million to 18.2 million, and demographers estimate that the number continues to grow by around 160,000 people a year. More people means more development, more pollution, and more runoff, but by most measures the overall health of the Bay has held relatively steady through this time period despite the increasing population pressure. Yet holding steady is simply not good enough. It’s not good enough for those of us who live and breathe the Bay’s brine, it’s not good enough for those of us who take immense pride in the Bay’s natural glory, and it’s not good enough for those of us who earn a living through the natural resources the Bay provides. It should not be good enough for you, either.

Please, Governor Moore and Governor Youngkin, take the health of the Chesapeake Bay personally. Don’t sacrifice its health in the name of progress or politics. Don’t be fooled by short-term economic gains which belie the immense economic values of recreation and tourism, which have yet to be fully utilized because of short-sightedness and the degraded state of our waters.

The Chesapeake Bay — the largest estuary in the United States, home to over 3600 species of plants and animals, over 300 species of finfish, over 170 species of shellfish, dozens of species of waterfowl, and close to 100 species of migratory waterbirds — could be one of the premier ecotourism destinations on the face of the planet. Even in its present imperfect state, with the proper development and marketing people would flock to the Chesapeake from all over the world. Were it restored to its former glory the Bay could easily rival any destination on the face of the planet. Were its fisheries restored anglers would be coming here from Key West rather than vice-versa. And those of us living here would enjoy a quality of life surpassing that of our parents.

This is where the writer in me wants to type “I implore you…” but I’ll just flat-out beg, instead. Please, please, please, Governor Moore and Governor Youngkin, please try to see our Bay for what it could be if the two of you believed in the potential of the Chesapeake — and dedicated yourselves to one day seeing it revealed on the world stage.