In Virginia and South Carolina hatcheries, biologists keep a close eye on shad and striped bass while taking time to focus on something that will never wear scales: mussels.
And down in Florida, hatchery scientists charged with making sure rivers and streams are stocked with catfish and bass are singing the praises of a tiny bird they’re raising outside their labs.
Over in Oklahoma and Louisiana? Fishery biologists have become experts in the art of raising — and the correct way of handling — alligator snapping turtles.
Mussels, birds, turtles: these creatures, and more, are living at national fish hatcheries across the nation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) which operates the hatcheries, welcomes their presence. After all, preserving species is what the Service does.
The volunteers paddled their canoes down the Anacostia River on a recent rainy day, the stench of trash lingering in the air as mud-caked bottles floated on the surface of the murky waters.
Centuries of development around the nation’s capital rendered most of this river too polluted for fishing or swimming. Heavy rains send water rushing from streets and sewers into the Anacostia, dragging debris, bacteria and sediment into the river.
Tucked inside the canoes was the latest hope for turning this river crystal clear: Hundreds of two-inch mussels, piled up in baskets and nestled in gobs of thick mud.
In 1905, the same year Albert Einstein introduced E=mc2 to the world, a newly formed U.S. Reclamation Service (now Bureau of Reclamation) unveiled its first large-scale water infrastructure project in Nevada. Commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt, the Derby Dam was constructed to divert water for irrigation from the Truckee River and Pyramid Lake.
With the dam in place, water flowed towards Fallon, Nevada. The desert turned shades of green and communities expanded, but the shift in water management also took its toll on one of Nevada’s most prized native sportfish, the Lahontan cutthroat trout.
The trout once roamed the waterways of Nevada, growing as large as 60 pounds and serving as an important predatory fish in northern Nevada. But with changes in water use, populations of the mammoth fish began declining. Operation of the dam reduced water levels in the Truckee River, straining habitat conditions, while the structure itself cut the trout off from spawning grounds on the other side of the dam. By the mid-1960s, the fish had been completely eliminated from Pyramid Lake.