This monograph is a major assessment of the state of key species in the Chesapeake Bay — the eastern oyster, blue crab, striped bass, and Atlantic menhaden — and of the prospects for shifting from single-species fisheries management to multispecies and ecosystem based fisheries management (EBFM). Edward Houde summarizes current management efforts, potential implications of climate change, disease challenges, and the need for new science. The eastern oyster has limited prospects for natural recovery in the Bay, although aquaculture, Houde notes, shows a promise with its increasing emphasis in Virginia and emerging growth in Maryland. While the blue crab has experienced low recruitment in recent years, new management controls such as setting exploitation rates and creating sanctuaries appear to be having an impact on stocks. Meanwhile coastwide management of the striped bass fishery over these last two decades has been effective with the stock at high levels. Atlantic menhaden, heavily fished coastwide, are not on the verge of collapse, though recent stock assessments indicate that it has been more exploited than had been thought.
Traditional single species management aims at producing sustainable yields by regulating catch and fishing effort; however, it does not account for other important factors that can affect fisheries production, factors such as predator-prey relationships, climate change, habitat variability, and disease. A priority goal of EBFM is to foster high yields while maintaining the structure and function of the ecosystem. Because of many scientific uncertainties, the emphasis must be on precautionary management. In developing EBFM approaches in the years ahead, Houde suggests, new governance structures may well evolve to meet its requirements.