Re: NANFA-- hatchery shad genetics

Christopher Scharpf (
Mon, 28 Feb 2000 11:26:01 -0400

In response to Jay's latest interrogation...

>What do you mean by "overwinter"?

After spawning, iteroparous shads migrate northward to summer feeding grounds in
the Atlantic Ocean (usually near the Bay of Fundy), then southward to warmer
waters (usually to around S. Carolina) to overwinter.

>Do these festivals celebrate shad or shad fishing?

Actually, they celebrate spring. Shad runs are a harbinger of spring. Of course,
this all relates to the historical shad fishery and the extreme importance these
fish had in feeding people, especially poor people and immigrants.

>And how about the suckers and other
>unforgotten species the dams impacted?

The suckers are okay, as far as I know. At least they weren't fished to near
extinction as the shad were.

As I said before, the hydropower dams didn't cause the fishery collapse.
Overfishing and mill and canal feeders dams from the 1800s did. When the
hydropower dams went up, the damage had been done. They are not to blame -- but
they must be mitigated in order for runs to return.

The point of your question, though, is that we (society) have a tendency to want
to protect commercially or recreationally important fishes, as opposed to less
exploited (but no less ecologically important) ones. The same situation is true
for the Pacific Northwest. The salmons get most if not all of the funding and
attention, but what about the poor lampreys? They gotta get over the dams, too.

>but the
>states and agencies and power companies involved in this really should have
>done the research you say they haven't.

Shoulda woulda coulda. But like salmon managers on the west coast, shad managers
here feel that technology can redress the wrongs. And instead of sitting idly by
waiting for more studies, during which time the species can slip away for good,
they take immediate restorative actions. Are there intentions to restore a
species or to restore a fishery? Well, I haven't seen any mission statements or
governing documents, but I suspect the latter is true. Shad are a big part of
East Coast culture, almost as much as salmon are on the West coast. So there's a
human, cultural need to restore them. Plus, they're a conspicuous fish. The
fishery aside, shad spawning runs are easily viewed by fishwatchers
and nature lovers. Their absence is noticeable. People miss them, so they want
them to be restored. People can't miss other fishes -- minnows, madtoms, etc. --
because they don't see them.

>dams relicensed aren't going to acknowledge they are operating on a river
>with a stock facing potential extinction.

Once again, the stocks aere facing potential extinction before the dams went up.
While I'm no fan of dams, I can't blame shad declines on power companies. And no
one does.

>Just being content with having
>fish swimming once again isn't enough, especially now that we have the
>technology to distinguish between evolutionarily distinct population groups.

This hearkens back to a previous argument on this list re: the extinct Kansas
population of the Iowa darter. If this fish is extinct, then let it be and move
on, because science will never get it back to its original, wild state.

But what is wildness? And how can we, as humans, perceive this wildness when it
may only be quanitified at a genetic level? To the average person, a shad is a
shad is a shad.

These are serious -- almost philosophical -- questions that I am not qualified
to comment on. I am just learning about them now. And, of course, they relate
very directly to aquarists who want to conserve fishes through captive

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