Stock assessments form the basis of the development and implementation of state fisheries management programs. In order to make well-informed decisions about Chesapeake Bay living resources, managers in Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions need information on stock status including status and trends in abundance, age structure, and recruitment variability of managed fish stocks.
Determining stock status means estimating information including abundance (numbers of fish) and biomass (weight of fish) and comparing these values to reference points.
The information from the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office's Fisheries Science Program and other related research programs directly affects which species are assessed and how the information can be used to estimate stock status.
Information for determining stock status comes from:
While surveys are essential tools for stock assessment and fishery management and are widely used to support single-species management, resource managers have also recognized how important they are in developing of ecosystem approaches to management. Ultimately, as scientists and managers move to multispecies and ecosystem approaches to fisheries management, fisheries and other resource management agencies will require monitoring data on fish species that are target fisheries and those that are not fished by commercial and recreational fishermen.
Data provided by surveys are needed by regional management agencies with responsibilities beyond the Chesapeake Bay. For example, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has mandated monitoring of many coastal migratory stocks. In these cases, states must collect specified monitoring data on stocks to comply with Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission specifications and avoid sanctions or closures of state fisheries. Other regional management councils, such as the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, use survey data on juvenile fish in the Chesapeake Bay for stocks that reside primarily on the continental shelf during their fishable ages.
To fully describe the ecosystem, NOAA investigates the habitat in which these living resources live. NOAA staff map habitats on the bottom of the Bay and explore challenges facing the ecosystem, including marine debris, such as derelict fishing gear, that may negatively affect Bay animals.