“If You Build it They Will Come”
BY JORGE BUENING, GENOA NFH
In the case of the Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) this famous line from the movie Field of Dreams (which was filmed in Iowa) should read that “if you stock them they will prosper”. At least that is the case for the federally endangered Higgins’ eye pearlymussel in the Iowa River.
As part of management plans developed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Minnesota DNR, and other organizations Higgins’ eye reintroduction has been possible. These plans target the goal of reintroducing the Higgins’ eye into waterways that were part of its’ historic range but are free from the threat of zebra mussels. This led to the stocking of mussel inoculated host fish into three of Iowa’s rivers: the Cedar, Iowa, and Wapsipinicon. Of these we have found Higgins’ eye in both the Iowa and Wapsipinicon. Now the mussels are old enough to be sexually mature and that is what we saw this year.
The annual Iowa DNR mussel blitz was held on the Iowa River near Iowa City during mid-August. During the blitz agency personnel and volunteers worked together to search for mussels at over 60 monitoring sites stretching over 20 river miles. During the blitz three adult Higgins’ eye were collected and they were brooding glochidia, basically ready to infest other host fish. If natural reproduction and recruitment can be established and carry the population into future generations, we will be able to say that our reintroduction efforts are a complete success. It has been through multiple stocking efforts and many hours of surveys that these observations are possible. Stories like these truly give us purpose and allow our dreams to take flight. Thanks to all our recovery partners for all the hard work.