The mid-Atlantic coast is home to some of the best fishing in the world. In addition, its beaches attract millions of visitors annually. The coast has experienced significant ecological changes over the last 40 years. Mid-Atlantic coastal waters suffer from the effects of the region's dense population and heavy industrial activity.
A great percentage of our population lives within 50 miles of the coast and much of the land along the coast has been developed. Water testing shows that the ocean of the mid-Atlantic is highly affected by the flow into the ocean from the Hudson River, the Delaware River, and the Chesapeake Bay. Lake Erie is influenced by drainage from tributaries into the Great Lakes.
Water that falls on land can make its way to streams and rivers that empty into the ocean, carrying pollutants, such as fertilizers and pesticides from farms and homes. Pollution of the ocean also comes from:
- Rainfall directly into the ocean that can carry particulates and other pollutants.
- Sewage treatment plants, combined sewer overflows, and storm drains that discharge liquid waste directly into the ocean through pipelines.
- Dumping of materials dredged from the bottoms of rivers and harbors, and waste from fish processing plants.
- Legal and illegal dumping of wastes from ships.
- Groundwater from coastal areas flowing through the sandy soil into the ocean carrying pollutants with it.
Along the east coast, some indicators of water quality show improvement, while others indicate worsening conditions. Overall, the long-term trend is for increasing loads of contaminants in the ocean caused by an ever increasing population impacting the coastal area.
- light penetration / water is getting clearer
- dissolved oxygen in the bottom waters is increasing
- heavy metals and pesticide levels are decreasing
- dissolved inorganic nitrogen is increasing
- dissolved inorganic phosphorus is increasing
- crab populations are decreasing
- the amount of fish caught by commercial fishermen is decreasing