Ecosystem-based fisheries management will require new information and management tools, including information on the prey – also known as “forage” – available to predators like Striped Bass. Although there is extensive information on Striped Bass in Chesapeake Bay, one important data gap is a lack of information on which species are most important as forage in shallow tributaries that function as nurseries for young juvenile Striped Bass. We are combining traditional sampling and analysis methods such as seining, gut content analysis, and stable isotope analysis with cutting edge genetic techniques to quantify the value of shallow tributaries as Striped Bass foraging habitat.
In partnership with Maryland and Virginia Striped Bass surveys, we collected juvenile fish at five sites in early summer, late summer, and fall. We are assessing these fish for age and size structure, body condition, growth rates, and parasites abundance and diversity, and diets to investigate whether tributaries of Chesapeake Bay vary in their value as foraging habitat. In collaboration with the Coastal Disease Ecology Lab, we are using genetic techniques to identify prey items and parasites to the species level, providing information on Striped Bass food webs in unprecedented detail. We're able to do this because we've been building a detailed genetic library of the fish and invertebrates of the Chesapeake Bay through the Chesapeake Bay Barcode Initiative.