Chesapeake Bay Agreement Fish Passage

The Chesapeake Bay Agreement is a historic pact that was signed in 1983 between six states and the District of Columbia, aimed at restoring the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding watershed. One of the key provisions of the agreement is fish passage, which has become increasingly important in recent years as the populations of migratory fish such as shad, herring, and sturgeon have declined sharply.

Fish passage refers to the ability of fish to navigate up and down rivers and streams in order to reach their spawning grounds, feeding areas, and other habitat. This is critical for the health of fish populations, as well as for the health of the ecosystem as a whole. Unfortunately, many dams, culverts, and other barriers have been constructed across rivers and streams throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, making it difficult or impossible for fish to move freely.

In response to this problem, the Chesapeake Bay Agreement includes a goal to restore access to at least 75% of historic spawning grounds for anadromous fish such as shad and herring by 2025. This is a challenging goal, as it requires not only removing existing barriers but also preventing new ones from being constructed.

To achieve this goal, many different approaches are being used. Some dams and culverts are being modified or removed entirely, allowing fish to swim through unobstructed. Fish lifts and other devices are also being used to help fish navigate past barriers. In addition, state and federal agencies are working with private landowners to restore rivers and streams, which can often involve removing barriers and improving the overall health of the waterway.

The benefits of these efforts are already being seen. For example, in the Susquehanna River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay, the removal of the Conowingo Dam has been shown to increase the number of American shad and river herring migrating upstream. This, in turn, benefits other species that rely on these fish for food, such as bald eagles and ospreys.

Overall, the efforts to restore fish passage in the Chesapeake Bay watershed are an important part of the larger effort to restore the bay and its surrounding ecosystem. By ensuring that fish can move freely, we are helping to preserve the natural balance of this unique and valuable ecosystem.