Re: NANFA-- hatchery shad genetics

Bruce Stallsmith (
Sun, 27 Feb 2000 12:34:40 EST

You're right about relatively little research effort on shads and herrings,
Chris. I did various literature searches over the last several years out of
curiousity about alewife herring, and there's surprisingly little work that
explicity addresses population genetics issues. The big question is usually
how many fish are returning in a year's run, and what can be done to
facilitate their return, spawning, and trip back downstream; all important,
of course. I think it's safe to assume that each river run has different
allelic frequencies from other rivers, as do salmon and smelt runs. In our
continued thrashing around of first nearly destroying ecosystems, then
trying to rebuild them, we wind up with new organisms through hatchery
manipulations. These fish may function for several generations, but we often
lose a fine-tuned genome tested by millions of years of selective pressures.
But at least some of them come back in the spring, which to me living in
Boston was always a good sign that the damn winter was ending (and the
return of the bluefish in June was a sign that it was actually summer,

--Bruce Stallsmith
waiting for the shiner runs in Huntsville, AL

>No one knows these answers, and very few are looking for them (as far as I
>tell). Right now the emphasis is on simply trying to bring the shad back
>whatever means possible -- including hatcheries, strict fishing closures,
>lifts and passages around dams, etc. Granted, the genetics of the whole
>may prevent the shad population from returning to the millions that can
>again sustain a commercial fishery. But at least the fish won't be extinct.
>the very least, future generations of East Coast residents will be able to
>the shad return in the spring (a rite of spring celebrated by various shad
>festivals in Maryland and elsewhere).
>Christopher Scharpf

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