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USGS Chesapeake Bay Activities

Partner Information

Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP)—Sustainable Fisheries Goal Team

CBP—Restoring Habitats Goal Team

CBP Water-Quality Goal Team

Executive Order 13508—Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (see "Recover Habitat" on pages 48–59 and "Sustain Fish and Wildlife" on pages 60–71)


Bay is spawning ground for 70-90 % of striped bass in the Atlantic

USGS Studies the Health of Fish and Wildlife and Impacts of Toxic Contaminants

graphic showing fish

Fish kills, skin lesions, and compromised reproductive systems of fish and wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have raised concerns about the health of fish and wildlife. Fish kills and poor health are related to multiple factors such as disease, bacterial pathogens, numerous parasites, and toxic contaminants, including endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Additionally, the potential impact of shale-gas drilling is a new concern in the Bay watershed.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and other agencies to better assess the multiple causes of the poor health of fish and wildlife. The assessments will help partners meet the goals of the Watershed Agreement to sustain fish and wildlife and restore water quality in the Bay watershed. The findings will be used by the Chesapeake Bay Program Goal Teams—Managing Fisheries, Restoring Habitats, and Water Quality—and partners to improve management policies and practices to restore these key species and reduce the impacts of toxic contaminants and other factors affecting fish and wildlife health.

USGS activities include:

An important emphasis of the USGS studies is working with the FWS to assess the extent and cause of intersex conditions in freshwater fish. In areas of the Chesapeake watershed, the intersex condition is present in the male fish that have testicular oocytes (immature eggs) in the testes. The USGS is also conducting food-web studies to determine if contaminants in fish are in fish-eating birds (osprey is the indicator species). The USGS is focused on assessing the occurrence, sources, and impacts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on fish and wildlife and assessing if shale-gas drilling may cause additional degradation.

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