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CHOPTANK RIVER WATERSHED, MARYLAND/DELAWARE

The Delmarva/Choptank River watershed, which includes the Choptank and Little Choptank Rivers, is located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The Choptank River, with headwaters in Delaware, is the longest river on the Delmarva Peninsula. This area is a treasured part of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, representing critical habitat for spawning striped bass and river herring, as well as historically abundant oyster reefs. Residents of the watershed—including many families who have lived there for multiple generations—have traditionally been employed in agriculture or commercial fishing. 

 

THREATS


Continued human population growth and land development threaten key habitats for fish and aquatic resources. The historical loss of wetlands in the upper Choptank River subwatershed is estimated to be 47,400 acres—approximately 11 percent of the total watershed area. Climate change and sea level rise, combined with land subsidence, further threaten losses of nearshore marshes and coastal environments. While the rivers and Bay have supported major annual seafood harvests in previous years, fishery resources are at risk

Native oysters in the Chesapeake Bay have declined dramatically over the past century due to overfishing, habitat loss (including poor water quality), and disease. Their populations are estimated to be less than one percent of historic levels. As filter feeders, oysters help clean the water; they grow in reefs that provide needed habitat for many Bay species.

 

NEXT STEPS


NOAA will now develop an implementation plan for the Choptank River watershed.

 

Please email any questions to Peyton Robertson at Peyton.Robertson@noaa.gov.