NOAA 03-R471
Contact: Ben Sherman
NOAA News Releases 2003
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A 20-year effort to restore the nation’s largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, will be celebrated by the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP), a federal and state partnership, next Tuesday, December 9 at George Mason University, the signing site of the historic Chesapeake Bay Agreement. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA), a key federal partner in the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership and focuses its efforts on scientific research, restoration, education and outreach.

“We congratulate the many partners of the Bay Program – who have worked cooperatively for the past 20 years towards restoring this American treasure,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The challenges facing us fully bringing back the Chesapeake Bay are complex and numerous. We have made progress, but are aware there is much more to be done. NOAA is committed to delivering ‘Baywide’ science to aid decision-makers at all levels.”

NOAA joined the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership in 1984 and opened it’s Chesapeake Bay office in Annapolis in 1992. NOAA provides support for fisheries research and management, habitat restoration, coastal prediction and observations, and education to the EPA-led Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP).

NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office (NCBO) provides a focal point within NOAA for Chesapeake Bay initiatives. This includes Bay restoration efforts, managing peer-reviewed NOAA-funded research, and strengthening NOAA’s interactions with Chesapeake Bay partners.

Over the past few years, funding for NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay efforts showed a rapid increase, rising from $2.85 million in 2000 to $12.5 million in 2003. Examples of NOAA activities in the Bay include recent awards of $4.95 million to study and conserve Chesapeake Bay fisheries. The studies will address gaps in information for important Bay species such as blue crabs, oysters and menhaden and will provide much needed information for ecosystem-based fisheries management.

The increased appropriations bring NOAA support for the Blue Crab Advanced Research Consortium to investigate the critical aspects of blue crab biology (reproduction, molting, development, and growth) and the potential for stock enhancement. They also allow NOAA to partner with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to study recruitment dynamics and distribution for important Chesapeake Bay fisheries species and to initiate a research program on the non-native oyster, Crassostrea ariakensis, in Chesapeake Bay.

“The health of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem is important to both the living marine resources in the Bay, and the millions of Americans who live, work and play in its watershed,” said Bill Hogarth, NOAA fisheries assistant administrator. “These awards, along with congressional funding for blue crab research, will help provide Chesapeake Bay policy makers with high-quality information to assist them as they make important Bay restoration and management decisions.”

Since 1983, the Chesapeake Bay Program has focused significant resources to identify the causes for the decline of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and to determine the best methods for protecting and restoring SAV. These grasses are critical habitat for juvenile fish and crabs and the principal food source for many waterfowl. SAV also encourages the settling of suspended sediments, which improves overall water clarity and reduces shoreline erosion.

In 2003, NOAA was able for the first time to support large scale SAV acreage restoration by awarding $553,000 to researchers in Virginia and Maryland to restore SAV and increase the capacity for SAV propagation. The most recent report of bay grass population, completed in 2002, showed 89,658 acres, the highest level of grass acreage reported since baywide mapping first began in 1978. The target goal for the Chesapeake Bay Program is 185,000 acres by 2010.

In addition to fisheries research and on-the-ground restoration, NOAA has taken a leadership role in providing Bay education. The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office administers the innovative Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Program. This program supports the Chesapeake 2000 goal of providing “meaningful Bay and stream experiences” for K-12 students throughout the watershed. In 2003 NOAA provided $2.5 million for the program, more than doubling its commitment from the previous year. This effort reaches over 2100 teachers and nearly 12,000 students in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and the District of Columbia.

Among the innovative programs supported through its B-WET are activities ranging from storm drain stenciling and understanding water pollution to schoolyard habitat, growing of bay grasses, field trips to the Bay and its tributaries, and summer workshops and camps.

One of the partnerships developed by NOAA’s B-WET program is with the Maryland Watermen’s Association bringing local watermen into the classroom to discuss their career and lifestyle with respect to science, history and social science. The B-WET program is now serving as a national model of environmental education and recently expanded to California where it is being piloted in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

NOAA also recently announced plans to further expand its presence in the Bay by establishing the first federal office in Virginia focusing on Chesapeake Bay restoration. The NOAA effort will be based in the Norfolk area at the Nauticus National Maritime Center with the goal of translating results from NOAA-funded research in Virginia into new products and services from Virginia Bay residents. There are plans for a NOAA person to be based at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) to bring direct attention on some of the fishery concerns that are unique to Virginia including coordination of fishery research with VIMS and other Virginia research institutions.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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