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NOAA has chosen two sites in the North Atlantic—the Penobscot River watershed in Maine and the Choptank River watershed in Maryland and Delaware—as the next Habitat Focus Areas under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint

Penobscot River watershed, Maine


Choptank River watershed, Maryland/Delaware

The Penobscot River is New England’s second largest river, and eleven migratory fish species are found in the watershed, including three listed under the Endangered Species Act. The largest run of Atlantic salmon in the United States occurs on the Penobscot. With a rich cultural history of commercial, recreational and sustenance fishing, it is home to the Penobscot Indian Nation.


Dams, culverts, water pollution and overfishing contributed to an almost complete elimination of many migratory fish species and their habitat from the Penobscot River watershed. A historic recreational salmon fishery nearly has been lost with the decline of the Atlantic salmon run. Thousands of small dams that are no longer in use are a safety concern.

Projects Underway

NOAA is currently working with partners and local communities on efforts such as:

  • Identifying priority areas for fish passage
  • Removing dams
  • Constructing fishways to allow access to thousands of acres of spawning habitat for alewives
  • Replacing culverts in habitat for endangered Atlantic salmon and eastern brook trout
  • Conducting pre- and post-monitoring of restoration projects to look at ecological results—to assess impacts on fisheries, water quality, and changes in water surface elevations
More on Penobscot River Habitat Focus Area

The Delmarva/Choptank River watershed, which includes the Choptank and Little Choptank Rivers, is located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The Choptank River 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, and historically abundant oysters. Residents of the watershed were traditionally employed in agriculture or commercial fishing.


The historical loss of wetlands in the upper Choptank River subwatershed is estimated to be 47,400 acres—approximately 11% of the total watershed area. Climate change and sea level rise, combined with land subsidence, further threaten losses of coastal habitat. While the rivers and Bay have supported major annual seafood harvests in previous years, fishery resources are at risk.

Projects Underway

NOAA and a host of partners and citizens groups are engaged in various efforts including:

  • Mapping and characterize tidal in-water and near shore habitats
  • Exploring removal of fish blockages
  • Identifying priority wetlands restoration sites
  • Demonstrating the benefits of oyster reef ecosystem services
  • Applying NOAA science to inform better management
  • Engaging coastal communities to ensure their increased involvement in and ownership of the protection and restoration of coastal habitats.

More on the Choptank River Habitat Focus Area