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The Chesapeake Bay is the nation’s largest estuary, with a watershed that encompasses one of the most economically significant and populous regions of the United States. More than 18 million people live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) “2014 Fisheries Economics of the United States” indicates that the commercial seafood industry in Maryland and Virginia contributed $2.8 billion in sales impacts and supported 22,950 jobs that year. In Maryland and Virginia, recreational fishing supported 12,939 jobs, and created $551 million in income. Two of the top 20 major North Atlantic ports in the United States are located on the Bay.

The Bay is a highly valued resource for the region for additional reasons, including tourism, recreational boating, and scenic value. The estuary and its rivers are home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals, including some 350 species of finfish and 175 species of shellfish. In recent decades, this biologically diverse ecosystem has seen sharp declines in some of its keystone species, including the native oyster. Human effects on the ecosystem, like overfishing, degraded water quality, and habitat destruction, have contributed to this decline. The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office (NCBO) focuses its science, service, and stewardship capabilities to improve the health of the Bay and ensure its sustainable use for generations to come.

About NOAA in the Chesapeake Bay

The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office is a division of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Office of Habitat Conservation, which works to protect and restore coastal and marine habitat for the nation. The Office of Habitat Conservation’s vision is “healthy and sustainable habitat that provides a range of benefits for abundant fish and wildlife, commercial and recreational opportunities, and resilient coastal communities that can withstand hurricanes, flooding, and other threats.”

NOAA has been a partner in the Chesapeake Bay Program restoration and protection effort since the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1984. The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office was formally established by Congress through the NOAA Authorization Act of 1992 (Public Law 102-567) and reauthorized in 2002 (Public Law 107-372) to:

  • assess the processes that shape the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and affect its living resources;
  • identify technical and management alternatives for the restoration and protection of living resources and the habitats they depend upon; and
  • monitor the implementation and effectiveness of management plans and restoration efforts.

NCBO also coordinates the programs and activities of other parts of NOAA, including:

  • coastal and estuarine research, monitoring, and assessment
  • fisheries research and stock assessments
  • data management and remote sensing
  • coastal management
  • habitat conservation and restoration

Most NCBO staff work out of Annapolis, Maryland, others are stationed at the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory in Oxford, Maryland, and in Norfolk, Virginia.