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Virginia’s Middle Peninsula Is the Newest NOAA Habitat Focus Area

May 03, 2022

The effort will restore habitat, improve water quality, and boost climate resilience.

Map showing boundaries and location of the NOAA Middle Peninsula Habitat Focus Area in Virginia The Middle Peninsula in Virginia has been selected as a NOAA Habitat Focus Area.

NOAA has selected the Middle Peninsula in Virginia as the next Habitat Focus Area. The Middle Peninsula Habitat Focus Area includes the tidal watershed of the York River, Piankatank River, and Mobjack Bay in Virginia. Working with partners in the area at the federal, state, local and tribal levels, NOAA will restore habitats for important fish and shellfish species and improve coastal community resiliency.

The Middle Peninsula was selected because it presents excellent opportunities to restore oyster reefs, fish habitat, and shorelines. The area faces significant challenges from sea level rise, but nature-based infrastructure can help it become more economically and ecologically resilient. NOAA and several local, federal, state, and nongovernmental organizations have identified it as an area that needs help with habitat conservation.

Oyster castles near a marshy shoreline
Restored healthy oyster habitat, like these oyster "castles," can benefit both wildlife and people. Photo by Aileen Devlin, Virginia Sea Grant.

Through the Middle Peninsula Habitat Focus Area, NOAA will work to conserve fish habitat and build the region’s ability to bounce back in the face of climate change. With our partners, we have developed plans for habitat restoration, water-quality improvement, and climate resilience work, and we’re looking forward to diving into this work.

A Partnership Effort

Partnerships are key to success in all NOAA Habitat Focus Areas. NOAA identifies community needs, builds local networks and capacity, and develops tools and resources that support resilient coastal communities through collaborative partnerships.

We know that we can do more together than separately. Habitat Focus Areas are places where NOAA brings partners and communities together to work on mutual habitat conservation goals. By creating a common agenda, Habitat Focus Areas attract additional investment, jump start projects, and build the capacity necessary for long-term stewardship.

A low-lying island on the York River.
Catlett Island is a Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia site located on the York River. Photo by CBNERR.

In the Middle Peninsula, we will work with many partners to address challenges. We will focus on building support for wetlands and oyster restoration projects and for fish habitat assessments and support a State of the York Report to review the health of the region and steps to improve it annually. We will also research and model how restored and natural oyster reefs, submerged aquatic vegetation, marshes, and living shorelines contribute to the economy of the Middle Peninsula.

In the Middle Peninsula, we will coordinate efforts across the agency to support habitat restoration, improve coastal resiliency, and provide science and tools to regional decision makers. To expand the impact of our work in the Middle Peninsula, we will also collaborate on projects and planning with federal, state, tribal, and regional partners who share our restoration and resiliency goals for the region.

Building on the First 10 Habitat Focus Areas

Investments in the first ten Habitat Focus Areas improved ecosystems, benefited communities, and advanced science for management and decision-making. From Guam to Maine, Alaska to Puerto Rico, NOAA and partners addressed a wide range of ecosystem challenges. We restored oyster reefs, removed barriers to fish passage in rivers, protected corals from pollution, improved water quality, and much more.

Habitat Focus Areas are one part of NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint effort. The Habitat Blueprint is a framework for how different parts of NOAA—and partner organizations—work together toward a vision of healthy habitat.

We look forward to sharing information on projects in the area as they evolve.

Last updated by NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office on September 28, 2022