Fisheries Management

The mission of the Fisheries Service is to:

  • Develop a management framework for the conservation and equitable use of fishery resources
  • Manage fisheries in balance with the ecosystem for present and future generations
  • Monitor and assess the status and trends of fisheries resources
  • Provide high quality, diverse, accessible fishing opportunities

Maryland is home to a diverse range of aquatic species and habitats including freshwater streams and lakes, the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, and offshore coastal waters. This diversity of ecosystems creates many unique fishing opportunities throughout the state. The Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Service, is responsible for managing commercial and recreational fishing. Fishery Management Plans (FMPs) are developed to outline agreed upon management goals, objectives, strategies, and actions Freshwater, estuarine, and migratory fish stocks are managed for sustainable fisheries, to enhance and restore fish or shellfish species in decline; to promote ethical fishing practices, and to ensure public involvement in the fishery management process.

Science-based strategic management plans are developed for species of commercial, recreational, or ecological interest. Public input regarding proposed management actions is developed through the use of interim commissions, task forces, and committees. Specific management strategies are developed for each species and its habitat characteristics. Integration of ecosystem processes into the management planning process is a relatively new directive and presents a complex challenge for managing Maryland's fisheries. In addition to important commercial and recreational fish species, special attention is placed on finfish or shellfish species listed in the Endangered Species Act. The presence and potential negative impacts of aquatic invasive species on fish communities is also a management concern that requires different strategies. The following links expand on this information.

Areas of Management

Freshwater Fisheries Management In Maryland

Freshwater fishery management is focused on non-tidal and cold-water fisheries. This includes the management of impoundments (lakes, reservoirs, and ponds), coldwater streams, and tidal freshwater streams. Management objectives include the protection, restoration and expansion of cold-water fish habitat, the enhancement of natural trout populations, stocking of hatchery-produced trout to enhance angling opportunities, and the maintenance and creation of public access to trout waters. Freshwater fisheries within Maryland are predominantly recreational. Freshwater fisheries management focuses on important game fish species: Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Bivalves, Channel Catfish, Madtoms, Chain Pickerel (Pike), Crappie (white and black), Eels, Herring (alewife and blueback), Muskellunge/Tiger Muskie, Northern Pike, Shad(American and hickory), Striped Bass, Sunfish, Trout, Walleye and Yellow Perch. Management strategies are based on a populations age and size structure, reproductive success, and habitat and environmental conditions. Typically, freshwater fisheries are managed according to geographic areas. The only freshwater fishery management plan (FMP) to date is for brook trout which was developed in 2006. One of the important issues recognized in the 2006 Brook Trout FMP is the need for preserving riparian buffers to maintain habitat quality.


Tidal & Coastal Fisheries Management In Maryland

A diverse range of resident and migratory finfish and shellfish species inhabit tidal portions of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, coastal bays, and coastal waters. Many of these species sustain valuable commercial and recreational fisheries. The management objective for all areas is to maintain sustainable fisheries by using biological, technical, and socio-economic data to develop science based management strategies for commercial, recreational, and ecologically important species. Tidal water fisheries management encompasses all Maryland tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries (excluding the main stem Potomac River which is managed by the Potomac River Fisheries Commission in cooperation with Maryland DNR and Virginia Marine Resources Commission), Maryland coastal bays, and Maryland coastal waters out to 3 miles offshore. Fishery Management Plans (FMP) are developed at the state, Chesapeake Bay, and coastal level to ensure conservation and sustainability of a species. A FMP includes biological, technical, and socio-economic information to identify problems and present management recommendations to address those problems. Traditionally, FMPs have had a single species perspective. Recognition of complex interactions among species and the environment has lead to a new initiative among Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions, facilitated by Maryland Sea Grant, to develop ecosystem-based fishery management plans.

Tidal fisheries management is complex because the physical boundaries of the Chesapeake Bay and coastal waters extend beyond political boundaries. To enable comprehensive management of resident and migratory finfish and shellfish, management strategies are developed in coordination with the District of Columbia, Potomac River Fisheries Commission, and the commonwealths of Pennsylvania and Virginia through the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP). This regional partnership provides a forum to specifically address issues relevant to effective management within the Bay.

A Comprehensive and Conservation Management Plan was adopted for Maryland's coastal bays in 1999 to address fishery issues specific to the coastal bays. Fishery issues were divided into three categories: finfish, shellfish, and blue crabs. As a result of those recommendations, two shellfish FMPs have been created for the coastal bays: hard clam and blue crab. Originally, a separate Coastal Bays Finfish FMP was scheduled for development, but the Coastal Fishery Advisory Committee decided that the coastal management process already in effect was adequately protecting and managing finfish stocks that are important to the coastal bays.


Migratory Species Management

Many of the important finfish species found in Chesapeake Bay and coastal bays also migrate along the Atlantic coast. Due to their migratory nature, coastal management strategies need to be effectively coordinated. Two management councils were created to ensure proper coordination of coastal resources: the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and the Top

Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management In Maryland

The goal of ecosystem-based fisheries management is to manage finfish and shellfish species based on their habitat utilization, life history stages, feeding preferences, species interactions, and the hydrographic and physical parameters that influence their distribution within the Chesapeake Bay over time and space. Through ecosystem-based fishery management plans (EBFMPs), Chesapeake Bay Program jurisdictions will develop management strategies and actions that consider species' functions within the ecosystem and how habitat parameters are affecting recovery or sustainability of the stock. Ecosystem modeling will become more refined as data becomes available on both multispecies interactions and the impact of land use and water-use activities on fish populations. The models will be used as tools to explore management scenarios and outcomes to inform and direct management measures. Chesapeake Bay Program jurisdictions will be able to strategically protect and restore finfish and shellfish habitat to sustain Chesapeake Bay species over the long-term.

The specific components of EBFMPs are different from single species fishery management plans mostly by degree. EBFMPs have increased emphasis on habitat considerations and species interactions of Chesapeake Bay finfish and shellfish. Habitat is an important part of EBFMPs, therefore, as each plan is developed will include a description of a species habitat requirements including its immediate food web, habitat extent (geographical, environmental, and seasonal), sources of inputs degrading habitat, and a comparison of historic versus current habitat. EBFMPs will also identify and quantify key predator and prey relationships and interactions to the extent possible. Interactions include estimates of total removals by commercial, recreational, and charter boat fisheries (including bycatch and discards). Biological reference points (thresholds and targets) are defined for managing each species using the best available scientific information. Ecosystem-based FMPs will be adaptive and risk averse in consideration of non-fisheries related human impacts, impacts of fishery regulations on target species and the ecosystem as a whole, externalities such as climate change and social/market influences, research recommendations, and uncertainty (Fisheries Ecosystem Planning for Chesapeake Bay, NOAA 2004). Five species have been selected for EBFMP development: Striped Bass, Alosine species, Atlantic Menhaden, Blue Crab, and Oyster.


Stakeholder Input in Maryland Fisheries Management: Commission, Task Force, Committee

Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service recognizes the value in stakeholder comment for effective management efforts. Utilization of natural resources differs among diverse stakeholder groups resulting in varied economic and social value of ecosystem components. Several forums exist for the inclusion of stakeholder comment in the development of management actions. Legislative action may be used to initiate a commission or task force, whereas a committee may be formed through a less formalized procedure.