2020 Annual Report Estimating Relative Juvenile Abundance of Ecologically Important Finfish in the Virginia Portion of Chesapeake Bay (1 July 2019 – 30 June 2020)


The Trawl Survey provides crucial data to state, regional, and national fisheries management agencies, including the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), the Mid‐Atlantic Fisheries Management Council (MAFMC), and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The MAFMC recognizes the juvenile trawl survey as one of the key predictors of Summer Flounder recruitment. Annual indices of juvenile abundance have been generated from trawl survey data for species of key recreational and ecological importance in the Virginia portion of Chesapeake Bay. These include Spot, Atlantic Croaker, Weakfish, Summer Flounder, Black Sea Bass, Scup, Striped Bass, White Perch, White Catfish, Channel Catfish, Blue Catfish, Silver Perch, American Eel, and Bay Anchovy. In March 2020 the Governor of Virginia issued a stay‐at‐home order due to the COVID‐19 pandemic. As a result, we did not sample during April or May. We were able to resume sampling in June 2020 at a reduced capacity and we visited 61 sites (York River and the Chesapeake Bay). Logistical constraints resulting from policies enacted to reduce potential exposure of staff prevented us from completing the full survey. We report results from June 2020 as Appendix Table 3 as these data are not spatially consistent with previous months. We completed 897 tows from July 2019 to March 2020 and collected 318,954 fishes. Bay Anchovy continue to be the most abundant species observed in the survey, accounting for 57% of all fishes collected. Of the target species for which we provide indices of relative abundance, 12 species categories (considering YOY and age 1+ as distinct categories) exhibited below‐average abundance in 2019 – 2020 (American Eel [all three rivers], Blue Catfish YOY [all three rivers], Channel Catfish juveniles and age 1+ [all three rivers], Silver Perch YOY, Spot YOY, Striped Bass YOY, Summer Flounder YOY, Weakfish YOY, White Catfish juveniles and age 1+ [all three rivers], and White Perch YOY (James River). Five species categories exhibited average abundances Bay Anchovy, Black Sea Bass YOY, Scup YOY, White Perch YOY (York and Rappahannock rivers), and White Perch age 1+ (all three rivers). Only age 1+ Blue Catfish exhibited above‐average abundances in 2019‐2020 (all three rivers). The highest index of abundance for Blue Catfish age 1+ in the James River follows the record year of YOY Blue Catfish recruitment that occurred last year

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