Fish and Aquatic Conservation

 

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Nature SNAPs into focus

 

A ladybug ambles over a flower, enlivening an already bright scene. Credit: Yaneliz Tomasini
A ladybug ambles over a flower, enlivening an already bright scene.

When is the last time you took a picture of a leaf bigger than your face, or thought about what a squirrel sees as it scurries up a tree? The Students, Nature and Photography (SNAP) program brings these questions into focus for its participants. Run through the Service's Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (LGLFWCO) in collaboration with its Friends group the Great Lakes Experience, SNAP is a favorite among the staff. SNAP is an effective means to introduce young people to nature and the outdoors using cameras and technology, something today's youth have inevitably grown up with as part of their daily lives.

Hobbyist photographers have volunteered their time to work with young people from the surrounding community, teaching them photography techniques, and using the natural world as subjects for their creative artwork. Students learn how to use digital cameras, techniques for successful nature photography, and they get lessons in ecology as they choose subjects to photograph. Each event is designed to meet the individual needs of the students based on age. The youngest students have enjoyed working with a partner to complete a photo scavenger hunt. At the end of the program, the students select their favorite photo and write a brief statement about it, describing the inspirational meaning the image has for them. Students also have their best photographs framed and exhibited at their schools and on the LGLFWCO website photo gallery.

 

Dry Run Creek provides wet fun for young anglers

 

Dry Run Creek is set up to allow children to catch-and-release trophy-size trout near Norfork National Fish Hatchery in Arkansas. Credit: Bill Barksdale
Dry Run Creek is set up to allow children to catch-and-release trophy-size trout near Norfork National Fish Hatchery in Arkansas.

Dry Run Creek is a unique stream adjacent to the Norfork National Fish Hatchery near Mountain Home, Arkansas. Water flowing from the hatchery—32 million gallons per day—provides quality fish habitat for young anglers to catch and release rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout. "Dry Run" is now a misnomer; the brook has deep pools, riffles, waterfalls and runs for children younger than 16 years of age to catch trophy-sized fish.

The project began in 1989 and was a collaborative undertaking between the hatchery, the non-profit Friends of the Norfork National Fish Hatchery, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and many volunteers. The streambed was restructured and opened in 2010 with streamside fishing platforms, as well as ramps and walkways designed specifically for children and the mobility impaired. These waters run nearly a mile to the confluence with the Norfork River and provide children the opportunity not only to catch fish, but also to learn about water, stream ecology, and habitat restoration. The Norfork National Fish Hatchery and Dry Run Creek combined draw in excess of 200,000 visitors a year, many of them children.

 

Science studies move the needle

 

Biologists Andrea Ania and Heather Rawlings teach the Wilson Elementary second grade class about fossils and how they are created. Credit:USFWS
Biologists Andrea Ania and Heather Rawlings teach the Wilson Elementary second grade class about fossils and how they are created.

For four years running, biologists from the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Michigan have taught science classes for one cohort of students at Wilson Elementary School in the Alpena Public School System. It started in second grade and now those same children are in the fifth grade. Biologists visited their classroom once a month to teach a science lesson that matched with Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) curriculum. These lessons in a lab setting encouraged hands-on learning, with several field trips taken to expose the children to the fascinating local ecosystems of northeast Michigan.

The children were introduced to a variety of learning experiences, and it's apparently paid off. The 2012 school year culminated with state MEAP testing. Wilson Elementary School ranked the highest for Alpena area schools and was number 58 out of 100 ranked Michigan schools. Principal of Wilson Elementary School, Jean Kowalski, explained that "One of the major reasons Wilson ranked so well was because the fifth-grade science MEAP scores—they were the highest we have had in many years." Kowalski attributed the success directly to Alpena FWCO augmenting the science curriculum.

Starting fall 2013, Alpena FWCO staff will start anew to improve science literacy with a class of eager second-grade children.

 

FEATURED FACILITY
Kenai Fish and Wildlife Field Office

 

Biologists catch juvenile salmon with baited minnow traps to document habitat use in small streams on the Kenai Peninsula. Credit: USFWS
Biologists catch juvenile salmon with baited minnow traps to document habitat use in small streams on the Kenai Peninsula.

Where: Kenai, Alaska

When: Established 1971

Then: The office was initially established as the Kenai Fishery Services Field Office, with a primary objective of "providing the Refuge Division with technical expertise on all matters relating to the aquatic resources on the Kenai National Moose Range," now called the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Now: The Kenai Fish and Wildlife Field Office collaborates with State, Federal, Alaska Native organizations, and other community partners to protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat, control invasive species, and promote stewardship of fish and wildlife resources. Biologists conserve fish populations through an assessment and monitoring program that provides information necessary to manage subsistence and other fisheries in Southcentral Alaska and Kuskokwim Bay watersheds in Western Alaska. Field office staff work with private landowners in voluntary conservation plans, on fish passage projects, and invasive species prevention and control. Over the years, the field office has developed cost-effective tools that include, underwater video monitoring technologies to monitor salmon, trout, char, whitefish, and other fish populations in challenging Alaska conditions.

 

Every picture tells a story

 

Flip through the pages of Spearfish National Fish Hatchery: Images of America for a window into the history of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and one of the oldest federal fisheries facilities.
Credit: Arcadia
Flip through the pages of Spearfish National Fish Hatchery: Images of America for a window into the history of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and one of the oldest federal fisheries facilities.

A new book titled Spearfish National Fish Hatchery: Images of America (Arcadia Publishing) tells lots of stories in over 200 archival images. The book written by three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees tells the intimate conservation history of one of the oldest Service facilities in the nation.

In 1892, U.S. Fish Commission scientist Barton Evermann was on assignment to South Dakota from Washington, DC. His charge: survey fisheries and locate a site for a federal hatchery. The foray took him to Spearfish Creek. The site was ideal. By 1899, Spearfish National Fish Hatchery started raising trout for the Black Hills and points beyond, and its effects on fishing were profound.

In time, the hatchery's mission changed to diet and genetics research, conservation training, and then to historic preservation that's now carried on there daily. The station's name changed, too. Today's D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives—named to honor the hatchery's first superintendent—is a treasure trove of information related to fisheries conservation. It's the Service's only collection management facility dedicated to preserving fisheries history.

About the authors: Randi Sue Smith is the archive's curator and has handled most of its 175,000 items, including nearly all of the images in this book. Carlos R. Martinez is the facility's director, and Craig Springer is a fish biologist and editor of Eddies. All three teamed up to write this book in partnership with the facility's friends group, the Booth Society, Inc., which will receive book proceeds.

 

Fish Culture Hall of Fame Inductees: Wesley H. Orr and Gary A. Wedemeyer, Ph.D.

 

Over the last 142 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has employed a good number of impressive biologists. Two more of them have been inducted into the Fish Culture Hall of Fame: Wesley H. Orr and Gary A. Wedemeyer, Ph.D.

Orr began his service at the ripe old age of 16, as a laborer at Spearfish and McNenny National Fish Hatcheries in South Dakota. After this experience, he was, as they say, hooked. Orr went on to work at Ennis National Fish Hatchery in Montana for 27 years, and truly left his mark on the art and science of fish culture. Orr revolutionized rainbow trout husbandry and production. He changed the way rainbow trout eggs are collected, fertilized, and distributed, and in the end established a high-yield rainbow trout broodstock.

Dr. Gary Wedemeyer credits his career in fish culture research to Rachel Carson, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service whose famous 1962 book, Silent Spring, reminded many of the importance of stewardship and conservation of natural resources. Wedemeyer began his own U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service career at the Western Fish Disease Laboratory in Seattle. His first research assignment was to develop methods and standards needed to improve the health, physiological quality, and survival of juvenile trout and salmon released from federal hatcheries. Wedemeyer's most significant contribution to fish culture was to bring about a greater understanding of the hatchery rearing environment and its effects on the initiation of fish diseases.

The Fish Culture Hall of Fame is a function of the American Fisheries Society, Fish Culture Section, and is housed at the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives in Spearfish, South Dakota.

 

Wild lake trout numbers on the rise, research shows

 

Lake trout dwell in deep water and spawn over rocky bottoms. Credit: University of Vermont
Lake trout dwell in deep water and spawn over rocky bottoms.

A recent peer-reviewed scientific paper authored by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists reveals that lake trout populations in Lake Michigan may be on the mend. A paper titled "Evidence of Wild Juvenile Lake Trout Recruitment in Western Lake Michigan" that was recently published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management reports the first evidence of consecutive year-classes of naturally produced lake trout living beyond the fry stage in Lake Michigan. Dale Hanson, lead researcher, and four of his colleagues at the Green Bay Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office concluded a high proportion of young lake trout caught in recent winter surveys were of wild origin.

Lake trout were wiped out in Lake Michigan from parasitic sea lampreys and overfishing in the 1950s. Since the 1960s national fish hatcheries have stocked lake trout but lampreys, fishing, pollution, and the invasive alewife have hindered the fish's recovery. Researchers can determine whether a lake trout originated naturally in the wild or from a hatchery, where the latter is given a unique fin clip. Until recently virtually all lake trout caught in the wild had fin clips.

Now, lake trout without fin clips are on the increase, and that's good news. In the last two years the fisheries scientists from Green Bay have pulled up lake trout from the depths of Lake Michigan where up to 27 percent of the lake trout hatched each year were naturally produced. They surmise the increase is partially due to a reduction in alewife as forage. A diet heavy in alewife causes a vitamin B1 deficiency in lake trout eggs, and thus poor survival of young fish.

 

FROM THE ATTIC
Notes from D.C. Booth Historic
National Fish Hatchery and Archives

 

Once a museum exhibit, this jar still shows visitors to the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives the differences between brown, rainbow, and brook trout. Credit: Craig Springer/USFWS
Once a museum exhibit, this jar still shows visitors to the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives the differences between brown, rainbow, and brook trout.

Everybody loves the jar. Down on a shelf in the archives sits an old jar, filled with preserved trout. Special groups are sometimes given a tour of this storage area and someone usually notices this jar of fish. It is a distinctive jar, straight sided, about a foot tall, with a sealed lid, held on by a flat knob and threaded clamp. Sloshing in liquid, five fish fill the jar, nose down. Are these unique scientific specimens, carefully preserved for future studies? Perhaps type specimens used to pen a scientific name of now endangered trout? Unfortunately, no—they are just trout. Different species, the jar could be used to illustrate the differences between brown, rainbow, and brook trout. Hatcheries often have sets of preserved fish set aside for educational purposes.

However, it's the jar and not its contents that are special. Once used in an exhibit display in the Hector von Bayer Museum of Fisheries History, the jar calls to mind hatchery laboratories and research of a hundred years ago. Placed on exhibit in the museum in the 1980s, the jar was the museum object, with the fish just window dressing. The exhibit was dismantled about 10 years ago, and the jar returned to storage with concerns about safety. It sits on an open shelf where it can easily be observed, with plenty of ventilation. The preservative used to pickle the fish is unknown, but the seal is holding. Someday, with appropriate precautions, the jar will have to be emptied. A new storage location will be assigned, likely a closed cabinet to avoid breaking this wonderful antique.

 

Impediments No More

 

With an obsolescent dam on Virginia’s South River now gone, kayakers pass downstream while American eel and brook trout can move upstream to spawning and nursery habitat. Credit: Mark Miller
With an obsolescent dam on Virginia’s South River now gone, kayakers pass downstream while American eel and brook trout can move upstream to spawning and nursery habitat.

Kayakers can now run past the old stacked-stone Ram Works Dam on South River near Waynesboro, VA. The Appalachian Partnership Coordination Office removed the 10-foot-tall dam allowing boaters to pass downstream and fish upstream. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Keith McGilvray, brook trout and American eel have some 27 more miles of spawning and nursery habitat now that the impediment is gone. Important partners, Trout Unlimited and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, participated in the dam removal on this Shenandoah River tributary.

As with most National Fish Passage Program projects the Service rarely goes at it alone. Since 1999, the Service and over 750 partners from public and private interests have removed 1,345 barriers, opening 20,229 stream miles and 155,454 acres of wetlands to fish. These projects benefitted 90 species of fish and mussels. In 2012 alone, 227 barriers removed yielded 2,546 stream miles and 36,630 wetland acres.

Breaching barriers takes the form of simply removing obsolete dams, replacing poorly designed road culverts, or installing engineered fishways that allow migratory fish, like Atlantic salmon, to pass upstream unimpeded by concrete and steel edifices. To learn more, visit http://www.fws.gov/fisheries/whatwedo/NFPP/nfpp.html.

Last updated: December 30, 2013