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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
FWS Director Dale Hall Joins Partners as New Great Lakes Fish Stocking Vessel is Christened
Region 9, September 22, 2006
The M/V Spencer F. Baird will stock millions of lake trout each year in the Great Lakes. 
- FWS photo by Karla Bartelt
The M/V Spencer F. Baird will stock millions of lake trout each year in the Great Lakes.

- FWS photo by Karla Bartelt

- Photo Credit: n/a

The M/V Spencer F. Baird, a one-of-a-kind vessel that will stock millions of native lake trout in the Great Lakes, was christened and commissioned today during a ceremony at the Great Lakes Maritime Academy Pier in Traverse City, Mich.


Operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the 95-foot Baird is a fish stocking and population assessment vessel that will annually stock nearly 4 million lake trout into lakes Huron and Michigan, furthering a four-decade effort by the Service and its partners to restore depleted lake trout populations in the Great Lakes and establish self-sustaining populations of this native fish, which was nearly wiped out in the late 1950s due to invasion of sea lampreys, overfishing and pollution. 


Service Director Dale Hall read the official Orders to Commission the Baird.  Assistant Director for Fisheries and Habitat Conservation Mamie Parker and Midwest Regional Director Robyn Thorson each broke a champagne bottle to officially christen the vessel.


Other participants in the event included Gerry Barnhart, vice-chair of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and director of the Division of Wildlife and Marine Resources for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; Harold Chase, spokesperson for U.S. Senator Carl Levin; Brandon Fewins, spokesperson for U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow; Gerry Jackson, Midwest ARD for Fisheries; Bob Lambe, regional director general for the Central and Arctic Region of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans; Dwight "Bucko" Teeple of the Bay Mills Indian Community; Frank Ettawageshik, tribal chair of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians; Gary Whelan, fish production manager for the Michigan DNR; Jason Walsh, spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak; and Sharon Wise, spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Dave Camp.


Also participating in the ceremony were Pastor Budd Wagner of Cheboygan, Mich., and Tom Todd, a U.S. Geological Survey employee and bagpiper.


The captain of the M/V Spencer F. Baird is Mike Perry.  The Baird's engineer is Bob Bergstrom. 


"This is a proud day for the Fish and Wildlife Service," said Robyn Thorson, the Service's Midwest Regional Director.  "The newly-dedicated, ultra-modern M/V Spencer F. Baird is a welcome addition to the Service's conservation efforts in the Great Lakes, and we are pleased to celebrate the ship's dedication with our fisheries partners.


"With a fisheries-related economy of $5 billion per year, we know that the Great Lakes are a resource that is vital not only to fisheries but to people, as well," Thorson said.


Of some 90 science vessels on the Great Lakes, the Spencer F. Baird is the only hatchery fish distribution vessel in operation, distributing fish reared at the Fish and Wildlife Service's Iron River National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin and Pendills Creek and Jordan River national fish hatcheries in Michigan.


Other hatcheries that contribute to lake trout rehabilitation are the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery in Pennsylvania, and Saratoga National Fish Hatchery in Wyoming.


In addition to its stocking duties, the Baird—operating with a crew of three—will evaluate the performance of stocked lake trout.  It will also measure the abundance and distribution of other fish species, which will help meet the information and research needs of the Service and its state, tribal, provincial and federal partners.


After decades of restoration work, self-sustaining populations of lake trout are established in Lake Superior, and Lake Huron is showing signs of rehabilitation.  Research continues to identify major limiting factors affecting lake trout restoration in these two lakes.  Strong partnerships have been key to successful lake trout rehabilitation in Lake Superior and will be critical to continued rehabilitation efforts in lakes Huron and Michigan.


"The Spencer F. Baird could not have been built without the support of our long-term partners in aquatic resources conservation: states, tribes, other federal agencies, non-government organizations and other Service programs," Regional Director Thorson said.


The M/V Spencer F. Baird is named for a prominent zoologist associated with the Smithsonian Institution, appointed in 1871 by President Ulysses S. Grant as the first head of the U.S. Fish Commission, a forerunner agency to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Spencer Baird is considered the father of federal fisheries research and fish culture programs in the United States. It was his idea to create the commission to regulate and research America's fishing industry. Baird was also responsible for securing funding and building the world's first fishery research and assessment vessel, the R/V Albatross.

The Service produces nearly 4 million lake trout each year and transports 95 percent of these fish to key Great Lakes offshore sites for release. Offshore stocking results in better survival and increases the probability that lake trout will spawn at offshore habitats near stocking locations.  The goal of the program is to re-establish self-sustaining populations of lake trout in their historic spawning reefs.

Support systems of the Baird ensure optimal water and oxygen conditions for lake trout during the ride from shore to stocking sites. Each year, the Baird will travel nearly 3,000 miles in lakes Huron and Michigan from April to July.

Once the trout stocking mission is completed, all fish tanks will be removed from the Baird's deck and replaced by fishing gear to carry out assessments to measure the performance success of stocked lake trout.  The Baird will also monitor and assess other fish populations in lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior.  Using bottom trawls, mid-water trawls and gill nets, the Baird's crew will sample prey and predator fishes to gather important biological information on fish communities in the Great Lakes.

The Baird also has a hydroacoustic system that will measure fish abundance using sound waves as the vessel moves through water. This data will be collected in annual surveys, often done cooperatively with federal, state, tribal and provincial partners.


The Baird's lake trout rehabilitation activities in the Great Lakes are just one piece of the Service's conservation mission in the Midwest. Restoring native lake sturgeon and freshwater mussels, improving native species habitat and controlling invasive species are other aspects of the Service's efforts.


Acting as an agent of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the Service is also committed to controlling sea lamprey populations in the Great Lakes so that native species such as lake trout can continue to rebound. 


The M/V Spencer F. Baird replaces the M/V Togue, a much smaller vessel that has come to the end of its working life. Built in 1975, the Togue was a shrimp trawler before the U.S. Customs Service confiscated it for carrying contraband cargo. The Service retrofitted the Togue, and in 1989 it began its Great Lakes work.


During its lifetime as a stocking vessel, the Togue placed tens of millions of lake trout in the Great Lakes, making it a critical component to the success of the Service's lake trout restoration program.


For more information, please visit our M/V Spencer F. Baird website at: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/Fisheries/Baird/.

No contact information available. Please contact Larry Dean, 612-713-5313, larry_dean@fws.gov