Fisheries Research Programs
Each spring since 2000, VIMS researchers have been monitoring the migration of young-of-year American eels into Virginia's estuaries and freshwater tributaries, partnering with fisheries teams in other East Coast states to provide the first comprehensive of the eels' coast-wide population. Understanding the size and dynamics of the species' population is key to its effective management and protection.
Researchers in this program use monitoring and tagging studies to assess the population of American shad (Alosa sapidissima) in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Aging of individual shad using otolith microchemistry is a key component of the program.
ABC researchers use selective breeding and genetic research to help restore declining populations of ecologically and commercially important marine species, and to help the aquaculture industry meet humanity's growing appetite for seafood. The focus of ABC's restoration efforts is the native oyster Crassostrea virginica.
Researchers in this program use DNA analysis to investigate the population structure and evolutionary histories of marine organisms, with an emphasis on pelagic (open ocean) fishes. In addition, studies of the movements, habitat utilization and post-release survival of pelagic fishes are used to develop effective strategies to minimize bycatch and bycatch mortality.
The VIMS Juvenile Fish and Blue Crab Survey has played a key role in researching and monitoring the Bay's fish populations since 1955. Survey scientists track trends in the seasonal distribution and abundance of commercially, recreationally, and ecologically important finfish and invertebrates throughout the Bay and its tributaries. Monitoring data provides necessary information to managers working to ensure the sustainability of future harvests.
VIMS initiated this survey in 1967 to monitor the abundance of striped bass (Morone saxatilis), one of the most sought-after commercial and recreational fish in the Chesapeake Bay. This research program generates the second-longest continuous striped bass index in the U.S. The index is part of a coast-wide sampling program that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) uses to manage the striped bass fishery.
Concerns about the status of the Atlantic menhaden stock have led the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) to identify 4 broad research questions that must be answered in order to evaluate whether "localized depletion" of Atlantic menhaden is occurring in Chesapeake Bay. Researchers at VIMS are involved in several projects designed to answer these and other questions and to provide the data needed to manage Chesapeake Bay menhaden stocks in a sustainable manner.
This program provides research-based advisory service to the Commonwealth of Virginia concerning oyster biology, ecology, and restoration. Activities also include studies of other molluscs in Chesapeake Bay and offshore, including hard clams, squid, and whelks. Program researchers are also actively engaged in invasive species research and advisory service on local, national, and international levels.
Traditional fishery assessments are based on single-species models and research. Multispecies research (aka ecosystem-based managment) broadens this traditional approach by analyzing the interactions between and among species and their environment. Multispecies research includes studies of fish age, sex, and maturity; predator- prey interactions; seasonal variations in species distributions, and water-quality effects. Multispecies fisheries research at VIMS includes the Chesapeake Bay Multispecies Monitoring and Assessment Program (ChesMMAP) and the Northeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (NEAMAP).
VIMS serves as the Commonwealth's center for the monitoring, study, and conservation of endangered and threatened sea turtles within Virginia's waters. Program objectives are to monitor population trends of sea turtles in Chesapeake Bay and surrounding waters, and to evaluate the impact of national conservation efforts.
This program has been monitoring shark populations in the Chesapeake Bight since 1973, making it the longest running fishery-independent shark monitoring program in the world. Today, VIMS researchers continue to provide detailed analyses of habitat use, age, growth, reproduction, food-web dynamics, and demographics of dominant shark species.
This program monitors the size and age composition, sex ratio, and maturity schedules of spawning striped bass in the Rappahannock River. Program scientists also conduct a tagging program, in collaboration with 15 state and federal agencies along the Atlantic coast, that provides information on the migration and annual survival of spawning Rappahannock stripers, and their relative contribution to the coast-wide population.
This tagging study is designed to assess the effects of mycobacteriosis on the health of striped bass. Mycobacteriosis is a serious bacterial disease that has been found in moe than 70% of striped bass in Chesapeake Bay.
Fisheries scientists at VIMS tag a variety of animals, from crabs to sharks. Tagging studies can reveal where animals go and how they use their habitat, how many survive from one year to the next, and how many survive interactions with fishing gear. VIMS scientists tag American shad, Atlantic sturgeon, blue crab, cobia, marlin, sea turtles, sharks, striped bass, and summer flounder, among other species. Various fish species are also tagged under the Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program.
The Bay-wide Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey is an annual cooperative effort between VIMS and the Fisheries Service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The survey, in operation since 1990, is the most comprehensive and statistically sound of the blue-crab surveys conducted in the Bay. Resource managers rely on its findings, along with data on annual fishery removals, to guide their on-going management of Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab stock.