Forage fish and invertebrates provide important ecosystem services in the Chesapeake Bay. Forage species support the ecosystem structure, serve as conduits of energy transfer between primary producers and predator species, and, in some cases, support commercial fisheries.
Because forage species play such a critical role, it is essential that we develop a strong understanding of and establish effective monitoring programs for these species.
To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:
- Defining forage species, the composition of the forage base and the definition of a “balanced” state
- Determining the status of the forage base;
- Informing management decisions that could impact the sustainability of the forage base; and
- Maximizing the efficiency of monitoring programs and building on existing efforts to map areas and habitats important for the production and maintenance of the forage base.
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 November of 2021. It will be reviewed and discussed by the Management Board again in November 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 2015, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources published draft benchmarks of striped bass nutrition and forage availability in an effort to develop indicators to asses forage status and striped bass well-being in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland has also begun to evaluate and quantify consumption indices for striped bass.
- In 2016, the Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team shared the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee report on forage species with stakeholders through the Management Board. This report identified critical forage species and offered actionable recommendations for their management.
- In 2016, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science published its research to develop a suite of forage indicators and consumption profiles for representative predators in the Chesapeake Bay and to investigate environmental drivers of forage population trends. This work was supported by Chesapeake Bay Program funds administered by the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
- In 2017, the Forage Action Team worked with the Communications Team to develop Bay 101: Fish Food. This instructional video describes critical forage species and how these species are studied in the Chesapeake Bay.
- In 2017, four watershed organizations participated in a pilot project to monitor the presence and abundance of forage fish and invertebrates in four nearshore habitats. The Forage Action Team will evaluate this work and determine whether to pursue additional citizen monitoring programs.
Participating partners include:
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources (State of Maryland)
- Maryland Department of the Environment (State of Maryland)
- Morgan State University Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory (State of Maryland)
- University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (State of Maryland)
- Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania(
- Virginia Institute of Marine Science (Commonwealth of Virginia)
- Virginia Marine Resources Commission (Commonwealth of Virginia)
- Chesapeake Bay Commission
- Potomac River Fisheries Commission
- Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- National Park Service
- U.S. Geological Survey
- Chesapeake Bay Ecological Foundation, Inc.
- Chesapeake Bay Foundation
- Chesapeake Research Consortium
- Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council
- Omega Protein Corporation, Inc.
- Smithsonian Environmental Research Center