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Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery Wins White House 'Closing the Circle' Award


June 10, 2003

Tom MacKenzie, 404/679-7291

Today in Washington, D.C., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams presented the staff of the Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery in Suches, Georgia with a Closing the Circle Award. The national award was given to the hatchery for the staff’s innovative, environmentally-friendly use of egg hatching jars which have eliminated the use of the carcinogenic Formalyn to control fungi on fish eggs.

“As federal employees, we are charged to lead by example and be good stewards of our natural resources,” said Steve Williams. “I am very proud of the Chattahoochee Forest Fish Hatchery’s staff for leading the way in reducing the use of hazardous materials in the every day operation of the hatchery.”

Chattahoochee Forest’s staff received the award for inventorying more than 200 hazardous substances ranging from common cleansers to toxic chemicals that were used throughout the hatchery. After some research, they revised maintenance procedures, changed hatchery operations, and executed pollution prevention techniques.

Their most significant accomplishment was eliminating the use of the chemical Formalyn which is used to control fungi on fish eggs. Fungi often attack dead fish eggs then spread to adjacent live ones, killing them. Under the old system dead eggs had to be picked off, and Formalyn was used to prevent further spread of fungi. The current use of egg hatching jars allows water to flow down through a pipe and to be distributed out through fins located at the bottom of the jars. The eggs are gently rolled by the distribution of water through the fins. The flow of water is adjusted so that live, healthy eggs are constantly being rolled to prevent fungi from forming on the eggs as they hatch. The lightweight, dead eggs float to the top and are swept away by the flow of the water.

Receiving the Closing the Circle Award were Deborah Burger, Chattahoochee Forest Fish Hatchery manager; Terry Callihan, maintenance worker; Evan Cochran, laborer; Mitch Pickelsimer, maintenance worker; Kelly Taylor, fishery biologist; and Judy Toppins, program assistant.

“We are excited about receiving this award,” said Burger. “It is fantastic news for the hatchery, as well as for the fisheries program. A lot of the hatcheries out there are doing some of the same things that we are! What we have done at Chattahoochee is just one small part of the direction the Service’s fisheries program has taken in being good stewards of the environment.”

The Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery is involved in the production and distribution of rainbow trout throughout north Georgia. About 50,000 visitors tour the hatchery annually.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 541 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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