Continually improve effectiveness of fish habitat conservation and restoration efforts by identifying and characterizing critical spawning, nursery and forage areas within the Bay and tributaries for important fish and shellfish, and use existing and new tools to integrate information and conduct assessments to inform restoration and conservation efforts.
Recent Progress: Increase
This outcome targets habitats that fish and shellfish use at critical points in their life histories. Due to the range of areas that comprise fish habitat and the existing gaps in our understanding of which habitats offer the highest value for fish reproduction, feeding, growth or refuge, there is no established baseline for this outcome.
Outlook: On Course
This outcome is designed to integrate information and conduct assessments to inform restoration and conservation efforts. Tidal and non-tidal fish habitat assessments have been conducted and additional assessments are underway. Multiple habitat studies have been conducted that can inform shoreline restoration management. Additional studies have linked environmental variability to fish populations resulting in adjustments to fishery management risk assessments.
To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:
- Identifying and prioritizing threats to fish habitat and proposing actions to manage them;
- Compiling available data on fish habitat, habitat vulnerabilities and habitat utilization and developing a set of criteria to identify high-value fish habitat;
- Mapping and targeting high-value fish habitat for conservation and restoration and developing geospatial decision-support tools to inform the natural resource management;
- Engaging decision-makers and individuals in conversations about the land and water uses that affect and influence fish habitat; and
- Evaluating ways to enhance fish habitat protection by reviewing habitat assessments from other regions and engaging with the Atlantic Coast Fish Habitat Partnership.
These partners will also collaborate with the work being done to achieve the Forage Fish outcome.
Monitoring and assessing progress toward the outcome will occur through jurisdictions’ existing fish and habitat monitoring programs. New or expanded monitoring programs (to include early life stage and shallow-water fish monitoring) are under consideration. In addition, benthic habitat, land use and water quality data may be integrated and synthesized to help identify and target high-value fish habitat.
As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in August of 2021. It will be reviewed and discussed by the Management Board again in August 2023.
Logic & Action Plan
Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.
Completed actions from this outcome's Logic & Action Plan include:
- In December 2015, the Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team (with support from Tetra Tech) developed a detailed literature review of the habitat requirements and threats for 13 lesser studied Chesapeake Bay species. These requirements and threats have been organized into two matrices: one matrix of habitat requirements and threats for all 13 species, and one matrix of habitat requirements and threats for the egg to larval life stages of these species.
- In July 2016, the Fish Habitat Action Team published an inventory of tools, maps and datasets related to fish habitat.
- In April 2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Chesapeake Bay Office published a research summary on the impacts of hardened shorelines on aquatic resources.
- The Fish Habitat Action Team has received funding for a workshop that will identify representative species for different habitats in the tidal and non-tidal Chesapeake Bay. Using these representative species, experts will evaluate the factors that influence habitat function and provide criteria to qualify these factors’ significance.
The Sustainable Fisheries and Vital Habitats goal implementation teams lead the effort to achieve this outcome. They work in partnership with the Water Quality Goal Implementation Team.
Participating partners include:
- Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (State of Delaware)
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources (State of Maryland)
- Morgan State University Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory (State of Maryland)
- Queen Anne’s County Department of Planning and Zoning (State of Maryland)
- Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (Commonwealth of Virginia)
- Virginia Institute of Marine Science (Commonwealth of Virginia)
- Virginia Marine Resources Commission (Commonwealth of Virginia)
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- U.S. Geological Survey
- Atlantic Coast Fish Habitat Partnership
- Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
- Chesapeake Research Consortium
- Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin
- Smithsonian Environmental Research Center