Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Fisheries Oceanography31





First Page



Climate-driven distributional shifts have been well-documented for fisheries resources along the East Coast of the United States, yet little attention has been given to adjacent estuarine systems. The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the continental United States and serves as important habitat for a diversity of fishes and invertebrates, many of which are seasonal residents. Survey data indicate that relative abundance of finfish in Chesapeake Bay has diminished substantially, while coastwide stock status has remained unchanged. In response to warming, seasonal estuarine residents may remain in coastal waters or inhabit a northerly estuary, but the extent to which changing environmental conditions may drive exchange between the coastal ocean and estuarine systems remains unresolved. This study analyzed data collected from 2008 to 2019 by three fisheries-independent trawl surveys to explore temporal patterns and associated environmental drivers of the estuarine–coastal ocean exchange in the Mid-Atlantic for eight economically and ecologically important species. Relative habitat utilization of Chesapeake Bay declined for most species, while utilization patterns for Delaware Bay were largely constant or increasing over time. Broad-scale, multispecies analyses of relative habitat utilization time series revealed that the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) was an important driver of Chesapeake Bay exchange, but that average Apr/May coastal ocean bottom temperature was significant for Delaware Bay. Collectively, the results demonstrate that several Mid-Atlantic species have altered their estuarine habitat use over time, climate drivers associated with estuarine–coastal ocean exchange operate on different time scales, and that the impacts of warming within the Mid-Atlantic vary spatially.


doi: 10.1111/fog.12611

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.