Bay Status & Trends

Status & Trends

Sub-Pages:   Coalition State of the Bay Reports  |   Citizens Monitoring Program  |   Population Trends  |

Related Pages:   Tracking Town Actions  |

General Bay-wide Trends (2013 status and data with 2011 scores from the last State of the Bay report)

Trends Key

Category Recent Trend Historic Status* Comments Link for Graph Link for Info
Shellfish Closures slight improvement 62 In the past five years there was nearly a 10% decline in permanent closures (600 acres over five years to 7,704 acres). shellfish closure graph Shellfish Closure Status
Embayment Eutrophication slightly declining 53 The effects of new growth, including the discharge of nitrogen from groundwater originating from septic systems built years ago, only now reaching the bay, continues to push down water quality scores. The one bright spot are improvements in the Wareham River as a result of their wastewater treatment plant upgrade in 2006. eutrophic bays graph CBB website
Eelgrass Beds slightly declining 23 Eelgrass bed losses continue in Buzzards Bay, although at a slower rate than as we reported in the Coalition’s 2007 state of the bay report. The only bright spot has been a slight increase in the Wareham River that appears to be the result of the 2006 wastewater plant upgrade and appreciable improvements in water quality near the Agawam River. eelgrass change thumbnail Eelgrass page
Herring Runs slight improvement 1 The dramatic decline of 2000-2006 seemed to have leveled off, and there has been continued slight improvements in counts, but we are still well below 2000 levels, and only 1% of historic maximum counts. Is the moratorium helping, or is offshore seining the primary controlling factor? thumbnail of herring population changes Herring Runs page
Scallops moderate declines 3 While bay scallop catch varies considerably from year to year, the downward decline continues to dramatically fall. thumbnail of scallop catch changes BBC State of Bay
Endangered Roseate Terns neutral NA The total number of pairs of nesting Roseate terns in Buzzards Bay is somewhat variable from year to year, but there is no apparent trend for the past decade, despite some restoration efforts. The effects of the 2003 oil spill, and the damage cuased to terns is still being studied and assessed. thumbnail of roseate tern population changes MA Natural Heritage Roseate Tern Page
Protected Open Space moderately improved NA Oil Spill fines have been utilized, and state and federal funds have greatly diminished in the last five years. A large CELP project in Wareham in 2009 helped, and continued land protection efforts by the towns have kept land and habitat protection moving forward, but at a very slow pace. thumbnail of open space acreage changes Open Space Page
CCMP Progress slightly improved NA With the CCMP updated in 2013, we are no longer tracking recommendations in the old document. This page and other information will be used to track progress. thumbnail of CCMP action plan recommendations completed GPRA Report
Salt Marshes Restored slightly improved NA Slow steady progress. This indicator is not included in the basket score. thumbnail of CCMP action plan recommendations completed Salt Marsh Atlas Page
Remaining Wetlands slightly declining 60 Coalition’s Assessment of Remaining Wetlands in the BB Watershed (*) NA BBC State of Bay
Remaining Forest neutral 79 Coalition’s Assessment of Remaining Forest in the BB Watershed (*) NA BBC State of Bay
Remaining Stream Buffers neutral 71 Coalition’s Assessment of Remaining Stream Buffers in the BB Watershed (*) NA BBC State of Bay
BBP Trend Basket 0.00 NA Current average of BBP Recent Trend scores (2 to -2) thumbnail of basket of indicator changes NA


(*) “Historic Trends” remaining percentage compared to estimated pre-European settlement conditions as described in The Buzzards Bay Coalition’s 2003 2007 BBC State of the Bay Report(2 MB pdf).


Climate Trends

Graph of water temperature in Woods Hole since 1944

Graph of average water temperature in Woods Hole, MA during the first two weeks of August when water temperatures are typically the warmest.


EPA National Estuary Program 2007 Coastal Conditions Report

coastal condition report thumbnail

EPA and Congress Celebrate NEP 20th anniversary, but Nation’s estuaries remain impaired.

On June 5, 2007, representatives of Congress, EPA, and national estuary programs around the country met in Washington DC to celebrate 20 years of success in the National Estuary Program (NEP). The NEP was established by the 1987 rewrite of the Clean Water Act, and has served as a model for watershed and estuary protection efforts around the country. A major focus of many of the NEPs and their partners during the past few years are their efforts to protect and restore wetlands, with more than 1 million acres protected or restored during the past 6 years. Since 2003, the NEPs have also leveraged well over 1 billion dollars to fund and implement various environmental protection and restoration efforts. Around the country, the NEPs have been strong advocates in facilitating the adoption of EPA’s stormwater control program and Total Maximum Daily Load controls for nutrients and other pollutants.

Despite these positive achievements, the news is not all good. At the same meeting, EPA released its National Estuary Program National Coastal Condition Report (Go to EPA’s NEP CCR page to download the report). The report was based on data collected between 1999 and 2003. The NEP estuaries were rated individually, regionally, and nationally using four primary indicators of estuarine condition: water quality, sediment quality, benthic (bottom) condition, and fish-tissue contaminant concentrations. In this report, EPA acknowledges that in NEP bays, many of the measures of habitat and water quality showed poor conditions. These conditions appear to reflect impacts from the tremendous growth in coastal development and population that these bay watersheds experienced, coupled with inadequate controls of pollution. Still, EPA stated in their press release that the NEPs were doing somewhat better than their corresponding coastal regions in response to growth pressures. They noted: “While population pressures in the NEPs were greater than those in the non-NEP estuaries from 1990-2000, the NEP estuaries showed the same estuarine conditions as, or better than, other coastal waters overall. By 2000, more than two-thirds of the coastal population lived in NEP counties, which comprise less than six percent of the coastal land area.”

The report section on Buzzards Bay ranked it at the high end of “fair”, although in the case of certain contaminants, like toxic contaminants in fish, the bay ranked as “poor.” The report was meant be an evaluation of the entire bay by averaging the results of stations both in the central bay and in representative embayments. A weakness of this approach is that overall, conditions in central Buzzards Bay tend to be very good, but many of the bays and harbors around the bay are impacted from pollutant inputs and changes in habitat cause by development and other changes in land use. The report notes: “Buzzards Bay has avoided many estuary-wide problems that plague other watersheds around the country, but land-use practices and the growing local population have impacted natural resources in the 32 small embayments in the Buzzards Bay area.”

It is for this reason that the Buzzards Bay Coalition, with financial support of our program and the Commonwealth, monitors and tracks water quality in more than 30 Buzzards Bay embayments.

Read the Buzzards Bay section of the report (a 1.8 MB pdf file).

Buzzards Bay Coalition State of the Bay Report.


Coalition’s 2011 State of the Bay Report

Coalition’s 2007 State of the Bay Report

Coalition’s 2003 State of Bay Report (2.1 MB pdf file)

Citizen Water Quality Monitoring Program, 1996 report.