Open Spaces : fish

Endangered Species Spotlight: Coho Salmon

Started in 2006 by the United States Congress, Endangered Species Day sets aside the third Friday in May to recognize the importance of endangered species and is an occasion to educate the public on how to protect them. This year, Endangered Species Day falls on May 18th.  In the weeks leading up to Endangered Species Day, we'll be putting a spotlight on a few endangered and threatened species for you to learn more about what makes them unique. And there's still time to enter the Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest! The submission deadline is March 15.

Gordon Li Coho SalmonCoho Salmon by Gordon Li

The Coho salmon in the United States ranges from the central California coast to northern Alaska and weighs from 7 to 12 pounds. 

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Felt-free for Aquatic Species

On Jan. 1, Alaska and Rhode Island became the latest states to ban felt-soled wading boots, popular because they offer anglers good traction on slick river beds.

Turns out they can also offer rivers something less attractive: Invasive species.

Felt-soled bootsA pair of felt-soled wading boots. Phot: Cheryl Anderson/USFWS

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100 Years and Still Swimming

Much has changed since Orangeburg National Fish Hatchery was built 100 years ago, but what’s more important is what’s stayed constant.  

This month, as we celebrate the South Carolina hatchery’s anniversary, it’s important to note the critical role Orangeburg plays in fisheries conservation across the country.  It’s a role that has adapted to the changing needs of Americans throughout its history. 

Shortnose Sturgeon

When Orangeburg was first established, it provided fish for subsistence, stocking local farm ponds and sending other fish by railcar all across the county. 

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140 Years of Conservation: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fisheries Program

If you’re a fan of ours on Facebook, you may have noticed links to our fisheries podcast over the past few weeks.  The series, consisting of nine interviews, is designed to highlight different hot topics throughout the country.  Right now we’re in our sixth week, so we have three more podcasts to go.

How much do you know about the program, why it was started, or what it’s all about?

Well, this is the Fisheries 140th year.  In 1871, the U.S. Department of State encouraged the establishment of the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries.  There was a growing concern over the decline in the Nation’s fishery resources, a lack of information about the status of the Nation’s fisheries, and a need to define and protect fishing rights in the United States. 

Today, our Fisheries Program plays an important role in conserving America’s fisheries.   We work with key partners from States, Tribes, federal agencies, other Fish and Wildlife Service programs, and private interests in a larger effort to conserve fish and other aquatic resources.

Bull Trout

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Alaska: Across the Wildest State, Climate Change Threatens Many Species and Habitats

A momma polar bear stands with baby bears flanking her on either side

An Alaska polar bear keeps close to her young along the Beaufort Sea coast in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Melting sea ice has made the polar bear a symbol of climate change impact. Photo: Susanne Miller, USFWS. Download.

Mutlimedia iconAudio: Interview with Alaska Native Elder Christina Westlake

Video: Polar Bear Research on the Chukchi Sea

With an area of more than 375 million acres extending 2,000 miles from east to west and 1,100 miles from north to south, Alaska dwarfs other states. The northernmost state is also unmatched in its range of climates and habitats — and nearly all are feeling impacts from climate change. 

During the last half-century, Alaska has seen some of the most rapid warming on earth, with temperatures rising 1 to almost 4 degrees Fahrenheit across its climate regions and ecosystems. By the year 2100, the average annual temperature of Alaska’s North Slope is projected to rise another 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

 “One big difference between Alaska and the Lower 48 is that here we’re dealing with impacts that have already occurred, not just forecasts of change,” says John Morton, Supervisory Fish and Wildlife Biologist at Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. “And because Alaska hasn’t undergone widespread landscape change from non-climate stressors such as agriculture and development, the impacts of climate change aren’t masked as they are elsewhere.”

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Tennessee: Joint Venture Strives to Determine the Effects of Climate Change on Brook Trout

An adult trout lying on a rock
Adult Brook Trout. These fish, known for their distinct coloring, face fragmented populations, habitat loss, invasive species, degraded streams, longer droughts, more intense wet periods, and temperature changes. Photo: USFWS. Download.

In his book, Shin Deep, Chris Hunt writes about why many fly fishermen pursue brook trout.  

“Its deep colors seem to provide a beacon of light in the near darkness of the evening, almost like a neon beer sign in a dank, dark, but wonderfully familiar tavern.” 

“You can’t help but stare at it.”

This hypnotic appeal draws fly fishermen like Robert Ramsay to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to chase brook trout holed up in cold mountain streams, like the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River that runs along the park’s Chimney Tops trail. “It’s like going back in time when you chase these brook trout in remote, higher elevation streams,” says Ramsay, who works for the Georgia Conservancy and has fly-fished on four continents. “I have a hard time thinking about the Smoky Mountains without brook trout in their streams.

Preventing this scenario is precisely why a growing number of partners are collaborating through the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture to determine how accelerating climate change and other challenges will impact Southern Appalachian brook trout populations in Tennessee and other states, and what biologists can do to protect the iconic fish.

In collaboration with many conservation organizations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed and released an ambitious strategy for responding to accelerating climate change and addressing its impact on critters like brook trout. The Service and joint venture are working on a climate change monitoring program, targeting 400 sites aimed at taking a closer look at how air and water temperatures impact brook trout.

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Idaho: Streamflow Responses to Climate Change - Why Elevation and Geology Matter

A gorgeous view of a flowing, rocky creek surrounded by tall evergreens
Adaptation iconLocation: Pacific Northwest  
Climate Change Impact: Streamflow response changes 

 

Engagement icon

The Opal Creek Valley, in the Willamette National Forest, contains 50 waterfalls, five lakes, and 36 miles of hiking trails. It forms the largest intact stand of Old growth forest in the western Cascades and 500-1000 year old trees are common. The most abundant trees are Douglas-fir, Western Redcedar, and Western Hemlock. Credit: David Patte/USFWS.

The waterways of the Pacific Northwest run deep. They unify the region that includes Idaho, Oregon and Washington by connecting the glaciers of its high volcanoes to its fertile valleys to the Pacific Ocean. Water coursing through streams and rivers is the lifeblood critical to urban and agricultural uses and to the vitality of aquatic ecosystems. Many iconic fish species in Idaho and the region such as salmon, steelhead, Pacific lamprey, bull trout and other native trout species, depend upon cool and plentiful stream flows to survive. But climate change is causing many stream flows to respond differently than they have in the past.

A changing climate is already bringing warmer air temperatures, an increasing proportion of winter precipitation falling as rain, earlier snowmelt and reduced spring snow pack. These changes all manifest in stream flow responses with decreased base flows, rising summer water temperatures, and more frequent winter flooding from rain-on-snow events.

Several bull trout up close underwater
Bull trout were listed as threatened in June 1998. Critical habitat was designated in 2005. A recovery plan was drafted in 2005 and has not been finalized. In January 2010, the USFWS proposed a revision of critical habitat. Credit: USFWS.

“The complex work of conserving and recovering fish populations in the Pacific Northwest has grown substantially more challenging in light of our changing climate – this has become increasingly clear in the last several years with recent scientific assessments and projections,” said Dan Shively, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Regional Fish Passage and Habitat Partnerships Coordinator.  “Robust and diverse fish communities require healthy watersheds and habitat; or more simply put, an abundance of cool, clean water.”

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Missouri: Climate Concerns Add to Challenges Facing Sturgeon Recovery Efforts

A man in USFWS gear holds a pallid sturgeon

Adaptation iconLocation: Lower Missouri River 
Species of Concern: Pallid sturgeon
Engagement iconClimate Change Threat: Changes in water levels and temperature

Camera iconPhotos and Video: Pallid Sturgeon Recovery Photoset with video clips on Flickr

Video iconAudio: Researchers Develop Models to Predict Pallid Sturgeon's Response to Climate Change (on KBIA.org)

Photo at left: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biological science technician Brett Witte shows the distinctive coloring, body shape and long, flat snout of an endangered pallid sturgeon. Credit: USFWS.

Above-average fluctuations in rainfall, snowmelt and runoff in the lower Missouri River are complicating U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service efforts to recover endangered pallid sturgeon, one of the continent’s largest freshwater fish.  Unusually low water levels in 2004 and 2006 have been followed by record high levels since 2007, say scientists.  The Service is working with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) through the National Climate Change Wildlife Science Center and Science Support Partnership Program to anticipate how a range of such changes may impact pallid sturgeon recovery efforts throughout the region, encompassing Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and South Dakota.

“Essentially we are trying to build a more comprehensive picture of how the fish may react [to changes in water level and temperature that might be associated with a changing climate],” said Mark Wildhaber, USGS research ecologist.

For centuries, rivers in the West and Midwest teemed with these great fish, which can weigh as much as 60 pounds, and have distinctive long, flat snouts. Then engineers dammed and straightened the Missouri, eliminating tree snags where sturgeon would feed, hide and spawn. Overharvesting by commercial roe fishermen further stressed the species, listed as endangered in 1990. Scientists have only recently begun to factor climate change into the recovery equation.

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Last updated: June 21, 2012