Chesapeake Bay Field Office
Northeast Region

Chesapeake Bay Coastal Program

Chesapeake Bay Coastal Program is the first of the Service's coastal programs established to conserve coastal resources. The Chesapeake Bay Coastal Program identifies important Chesapeake Bay problems and solutions, carries out on-the-ground conservation projects, encourages stewardship of resources by local governments and the public and works with other federal, state and local agencies and the private sector to implement solutions to problems within the region.

Living Resources
The Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries support more than 2,700 plant and animal species, including threatened and endangered species, waterfowl, raptors, neotropical migratory birds, anadromous fish, and commercially important fish and shellfish. Forested uplands are nesting and resting habitat for neotropical migratory birds and coastal wetlands provide valuable wintering grounds for waterfowl. The tributaries within the watershed are spawning grounds for anadromous fish species like striped bass, blueback herring, alewife, American shad, hickory shad and Atlantic sturgeon. Shallow water areas support submerged aquatic vegetation, underwater plants that provide food and cover for waterfowl, blue crabs and juvenile fish. The open water of the Chesapeake Bay supports striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, American shad, blueback herring, alewife, bay anchovy and Atlantic menhaden. Commercially valuable shellfish, like oysters and clams, live along the Bay's bottom.

More than 15 million people reside or work in the watershed. Human activities over the past 300 years have led to a decline in water quality, mainly due to an increase in nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from agricultural and urban runoff. Development has caused a loss of wetlands, forests and shallow water habitats vital to Chesapeake Bay wildlife. Damming of rivers and other blockages prevent anadromous fish from reaching traditional spawning grounds. These are just a few problems currently being addressed.

Partnerships For Protection
The Chesapeake Bay Coastal Program is working with other federal, state and local agencies to protect living resources. Under a Memorandum of Agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a major partner in the Chesapeake Bay Program, a multi-agency effort to restore living resources and water quality of the Chesapeake Bay. Through its participation, the Service has facilitated a number of important activities such as:

  • Cooperatively surveyed all submerged aquatic vegetation since 1984
  • Developed protection guidelines for submerged aquatic vegetation


  • Completed a comprehensive survey of all Chesapeake Bay waterbirds
  • Conducted a 40-year waterfowl status and trends study

Habitat restoration

  • Coordinated Chesapeake Bay wetlands status and trends survey
  • Coordinated development of a Chesapeake Bay habitat restoration strategy
  • Restored thousands of acres of wetlands and other important fish and wildlife habitats throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. One example is Hail Cove.
Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Watershed and Habitats
The Chesapeake Bay watershed is a drainage basin of 64,000 square miles, encompassing parts of the states of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the entire District of Columbia. Waters from this expansive landscape flow into the Chesapeake Bay, the nation's largest estuary. The watershed contains an array of habitat types, including mixed hardwood forests of the Appalachian mountains; grasslands and fields of agricultural areas; lakes, rivers and streams; wetlands and shallow water habitats; open water of tidal rivers and the mainstem of the estuary; and the cities and suburbs in between.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Coastal Program

Chesapeake Bay Oyster Reef Habitat Initiative

Last updated: January 28, 2011