Recent Progress: Increase

Between 2020 and 2021, the Forage Action Team began development of three forage indicators: tracking the abundance of key invertebrates, the relationship of warming water temperatures to forage abundance and the relationship of the amount of suitable habitat to forage abundance. These initial indicators lay the foundation for the annual assessment of the condition of forage species in the Chesapeake Bay.

Outlook: On Course

The Forage Fish Outcome is on course. The Forage Action Team started in 2014 knowing relatively little about forage and now has a science-based list of the most important forage in the Bay, information on the abundances of key forage and environmental drivers of abundance, and an assessment of gaps. The team has published an indicator development plan prioritizing 7 indicators that can be developed with existing data and have clear management applications. Four indicators are either under development or ready for development. This plan, along with the Management Strategy and Logic & Action Plan, provide the strategic path forward for assessing forage in the Bay.

Learn About Factors Influencing Progress

Management Strategy

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.

These partners will also collaborate with the work being done to achieve the Fish Habitat and Climate Adaptation outcomes.

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.

Download Management Strategy (.pdf)

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


  • 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 public monitoring programs.


  • 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 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.

Learn About Logic & Action Plan

Participating Partners

The Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team leads the effort to achieve this outcome. It works in partnership with the Vital Habitats and Healthy Watersheds goal implementation teams.

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