The York River system supports a diverse fish fauna represented by members of the shad and herring family, drums, flatfishes, temperate basses, catfishes, sharks, skates, rays, and numerous smaller fishes that serve as forage such as bay anchovy, Atlantic menhaden, and killifish. Historically, fisheries for blue crabs, American shad, striped bass, and Atlantic sturgeon thrived in the Chesapeake Bay region but in recent times, and with the exception of striped bass, these fisheries have declined. Fishes of the York River exhibit divergent life history patterns, from fast growing, highly fecund species such as alewife, to slow growing, late-maturing species with low fecundity such as Atlantic sturgeon. The young of many species use the York River system as a nursery area and depend on the high productivity of this estuary for conferring fast growth and high survival during the first year of life. Habitat alterations that result in loss of water quality or quantity may deleteriously affect recruitment of young fishes through direct effects on young-of-the-year fish survival, or through disruption of spawning activity (e.g., dam construction, and water withdrawals that affect salinity and flow). Continued monitoring of recruitment success is crucial to understanding population-level responses to environmental and human-induced perturbations, especially in light of the projected growth of the human population in this watershed. Other important areas of continued research include assessment of habitat use and delineation of trophic interactions.
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Vol. 2009 • No. 10057