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Forage Fish Habitat Suitability Model Final Report

This study, conducted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and Anchor QEA, coupled fisheries survey data with dissolved oxygen and hydrodynamic models to develop habitat suitability indices for four key forage fishes in Chesapeake Bay. These indices were used to quanitfy the extent of suitable habitat available for each species throughout the Bay and its tributaries over time.

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Environmental, Spatial and Temporal Patterns in Chesapeake Bay Forage Population Distributions and P

The research focused on evaluating: 1) evidence of spatial and temporal structuring of forage populations and predator consumption along environmental gradients and, 2) the effects of variability in abundance of multiple forage taxa on predator consumption patterns. The project built upon previous research (Buchheister 2016). We evaluated patterns patterns of relative abundance of important invertebrate forage taxa at a highly aggregated, functional group level. Invertebrate forage groups included Macoma spp. bivalves, non-Macoma (other) bivalves, polychaetes, and small crustaceans (including amphipods and isopods). Species-level analyses focused on forage fish previously identified as important or potentially important forage taxa in Chesapeake Bay (Ihde et al. 2015), including bay anchovy, young-of-the-year (YOY) Atlantic menhaden, YOY weakfish, YOY spot, YOY Atlantic croaker, Atlantic silversides, mummichog and killifishes. The river herrings, alewife and blueback herring, were included where possible due to strong interest in their recovery in Chesapeake Bay and their historically significant abundances in the ecosystem. Our results indicate that the relative interannual abundance of many of the forage group covaried with the timing of spring time warming of the water, winter-spring flow volume, and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). Annual mean per capita consumption by dominant predators – including several size-classes of striped bass, summer flounder, Atlantic croaker, weakfish, white perch and spot – did not covary with forage density in the mainstem but did show significant non-linear relationships with several key environmental variables. Multivariate diet analysis suggested the diet of several predators was influenced by environmental variables (particularly AMO) and that predator diets differed between Maryland and Virginia portions of the mainstem, however these spatial differences were subtle. Overall, we found that there is evidence to suggest that years in which winter water temperatures warm slowly are conducive to higher summertime forage abundances. We failed to find evidence that per capita consumption was linked to relative abundance of individual forage taxa, but consumption did covary with environmental conditions in complex, generally non-linear ways.

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Assessing the Chesapeake Bay Forage Base: Existing Data and Research Priorities - STAC Forage Report

Forage species play an integral role in the Chesapeake Bay food web by supporting higher-trophic level
production. "Forage" was interpreted broadly for this workshop and included invertebrate groups as well
as vertebrates, in recognition of the importance of benthic invertebrates and plankton as forage in the
Chesapeake ecosystem, and in response to needs outlined by the Sustainable Fisheries Goal
Implementation Team (SFGIT) Executive Committee. Most forage species are not directly managed by
the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) or Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions, yet these
species are critical to sustaining production of economically and ecologically valuable fish species in the
Bay. A better understanding of the content of the forage base, habitat areas critical for forage production,
and predator-prey interactions involving these valuable species will be an important step toward
ecosystem-based fisheries management in the Chesapeake Bay.


Much uncertainty surrounds the forage topic. Specifically, it is not clear: 1) what taxa constitute the
forage base (species, groups, etc.); 2) how the scientific community can begin to quantify Chesapeake
forage; 3) what data already exist to quantify the forage base; 4) what essential data and information are
needed; and 5) how such information can be used in management decisions. A two-day workshop was
held on November 12-13, 2014 to convene the necessary scientific and management expertise to address
these uncertainties and to recommend feasible approaches to improve our collective understanding of the
forage base.
The focus of the workshop was on producing a system-wide scientific synthesis of forage and develop
actionable recommendations for its management in support of the managed fished species in the
Chesapeake. Participants were encouraged throughout the workshop to consider how to develop and
recommend workshop products that could best facilitate decision-making by fishery managers. The
workshop was designed to address forage issues in a comprehensive way that is system-wide in scope,
rather than focused on any one species or issue. The emphasis of the workshop, as proposed by the
Steering Committee (SC; Appendix A), was to improve understanding of critical forage needs that
support desirable functioning of the Chesapeake ecosystem. During the workshop, jurisdictional
managers indicated that their primary interest was in describing the forage specifically required to support
managed species. Consequently, much of the workshop discussion and content of this report are focused
specifically on forage groups that support the managed and fished species of the Bay.
This workshop report summarizes outcomes and supports the SFGIT in development of both the "Forage
Fish" and "Fish Habitat" Management Strategies, as specified by the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP)
Watershed Agreement
(https://www.chesapeakebay.net/documents/FINAL_Ches_Bay_Watershed_Agreement.withsignaturesHIres.pdf).

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