Working with tribes for healthy waters and fish

A man holds a fish that has orange eggs squirting out of it.

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Fisheries Biologist and Communication Coordinator Catherine Gatenby dishes about fish!

Conserving fish and keeping rivers and lakes healthy for all nations for all people takes cooperation and collaboration. The Northeast Fisheries Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with Native American governments to bring back self-sustaining populations of native fish–Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sturgeon, American shad, lake sturgeon and lake trout, to name a few.

Two eel-like lamprey are attached to a lake trout held by someone

Early detection of invasive species on tribal lands will help prevent the spread of sea lamprey which harm native lake trout. Credit: USFWS

Together we share funding and brain power to determine biological needs, decide where to focus habitat restoration, monitor overall health and distribution of wild fisheries and determine when to use hatchery-rearing and stocking to give a boost to wild populations.

Our biologists have helped tribal groups from Virginia to Oregon learn about shad and freshwater mussel culture. We produce lake trout at Allegheny National Fish Hatchery to stock into tribal and public waters. And we help the Seneca Nation to control sea lamprey, which have had devastating effects on native lake trout. We also work with the Six Nations of the Iroquois to restore lake sturgeon.

A man holds a fish that has orange eggs squirting out of it.

Mike Whited is spawning rainbow trout at the White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery. These rainbow trout eggs are destined for someone’s fishing pole and dinner plate after they have been reared to stock-able size at tribal and other national fish hatcheries. Credit: USFWS.

Recently, we, the Penobscot Indian Nation  and the entire Penobscot River Restoration team celebrated a major milestone to improve fish habitat and restore the mighty Penobscot River

This ongoing collaboration reverses 200 years of degradation by removing several dams, returning thousands of river miles for migratory fish such as Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sturgeon, shortnose sturgeon and American shad. It makes the river healthier for all fish, too.

This Lake trout caught in 2003, weighed 41.5 lbs and measured 42.5 inches, and still holds the New York state record.  Because the fish was tagged, we can trace the fish back to an Allegheny National Fish Hatchery stocking event in 1985. Credit: NY State Department of Environmental Conservation

This Lake trout caught in 2003, weighed 41.5 lbs and measured 42.5 inches, and still holds the New York state record. Because the fish was tagged, we can trace the fish back to an Allegheny National Fish Hatchery stocking event in 1985. Credit: NY State Department of Environmental Conservation

The Northeast Fisheries program also promotes recreational fishing on tribal lands across the country.  We ship more than one million disease-free rainbow trout eggs from White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery to five tribes – the Apache, Arapaho, Mescalero, Navaho, and Cherokee.

Our scientists at the Northeast Fishery Center in Lamar, Pennsylvania regularly monitor health of the rainbow trout, to certify the eggs disease-free.  This is critical to prevent the spread of aquatic diseases that could harm native fish, and threaten the health of aquatic ecosystems across the country.

Relationships with tribes to restore rivers, lakes and healthy fish populations enhances recreation and the economy on tribal and public lands across our nation and embodies the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: “working with others, to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.”

4 Comments on “Working with tribes for healthy waters and fish

  1. Pingback: Atlantic sturgeon restoration program | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Why introduce additional non-native invasive rainbow trout into the Southwest? I thought the USFWS spends enough money performing non-native removals with adding to it.

      • Hi Axel, Please forgive us for the delay as we coordinated with our folks in the Southwest to make sure we had the appropriate information. Hundreds of thousands of anglers pursue their passions for trout, more than can be supported with our limited capacity to produce native trout. In the southwest, we are careful to stock nonnative trout only in waters that are not connected to native trout conservation waters. We also stock nonnative trout where the stream’s natural reproductive capability has been altered due to federal water projects, such as below a dam. In this way we can provide conservation gains for native trout and still meet angler needs and the billion dollar economic recreational engine important to local communities throughout the southwest.

        Additionally, the National Broodstock Program of our agency provides disease-free rainbow trout eggs (and disease-free broodstock) for these tribal and state recreational fishing programs to prevent the spread of aquatic diseases across the country, which could devastate native fish. Our National Fish Health Centers also monitor the health of hatchery and wild fish across the country.

        For further information native species restoration efforts in the southwest United States, visit http://www.fws.gov/southwest/fisheries/index.html;
        http://www.fws.gov/southwest/fisheries/azfwco/tribal.html and http://www.fws.gov/SOUTHWEST/fisheries/awc/species.html
        You also might be interested in the Arizona’s native fish research facility and hatchery http://www.azgfd.net/fish/bubbling-ponds-native-fish-research-facility/

        For information on our National Fish Health Centers, visit http://www.fws.gov/wildfishsurvey/about/

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