Tag: freshwater mussels

Results: Great News for Shad

Standing on the bow of the boat, Steve Herrington exuded the excited energy of a kid reeling in his first fish. Or perhaps a more scientific version of the Crocodile Hunter, bubbling with intensity. Net in hand, he scooped up shad — a migratory fish species — quickly examining them before passing them off to fellow researchers.

As covered in yesterday’s blog, last year I spent a day with Steve on Florida’s Apalachicola River looking at Alabama shad, a fish that researchers hoped would benefit by a practice known as conservation locking—basically allowing fish to pass through dams by using the same lock system that enables ships to pass.

Herrington was then director of freshwater programs for The Nature Conservancy’s Florida program (he now holds the same position with Missouri). At the time, conservation locking on the Apalachicola seemed to hold great promise for shad, a migratory species. He estimated that conservation locking could result in a returning population of 60,000 to 75,000 shad, indicating a steady increase.

Fast forward a year later. Herrington is on the phone, and that same infectious enthusiasm is literally bubbling over. “Great news!” he exclaims.

And indeed, his research has yielded surprising results. Those initial estimates of 60,000 shad? Way low. Estimates now showed a 122,000 fish increase, with as many as 280,000 total shad now in the system.

“We can now confidently say that conservation locking works, and we’re seeing a substantial bump in the population,” Herrington says. “I don’t know that there are any other data out there that so convincingly demonstrates such effectiveness.”

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Experiment: Freshwater Mussel Restoration

Tharran Hobson dons a wetsuit and wades into the wetland. Soon he is swimming, diving, fishing around—“pollywogging,” he calls it—finally emerging with his muddy bounty, a small wire cage.

As underwater treasures go, it doesn’t look like much: A wire structure with a silt-covered tray in the bottom.

But this contraption may hold the key to restoring some of the least understood and most abused creatures in the Mississippi River system: freshwater mussels.

Conservancy scientists and partners are currently testing whether restored wetlands might be suitable sites for freshwater mussel propagation efforts. If it works, it could be another important tactic in the restoration of freshwater mussels that once existed in Midwest rivers by the millions.

I’m joining these scientists at the Conservancy’s Emiquon Preserve, a 6800-acre restored floodplain along the Illinois River (a significant tributary of the Mississippi). This project has already been successful in drawing in thousands of migrating waterfowl, and in restoring 30 native fish species.

Could it also serve as a breeding project for mussels?

That’s what I’m here to find out.

Full Article


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