Restoring Historic Fish Spawning Grounds

Written by on August 30, 2013 in Other News

Editor’s note — Introducing MST’s newest contributor, Kristen Spruill! Kristen is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology. While at UNCW, she worked on an independent research project looking at the effects of ocean acidification on coral and algal communities. She is currently working on implementing microfiltration applications to restore at risk or impaired waters.

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By Kristen Spruill

After installation of the rock arch ramp. Photo credit: NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

After installation of the rock arch ramp. Photo credit: NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

Beginning in the early 20th century, to provide large barges and vessels with access to over 100 extra miles of upriver distance, three lock and dam structures were built along the Cape Fear River. Although the construction of the dams facilitated commerce, it prevented migrating fish such as Striped Bass, Atlantic and Shortnose Sturgeons, and American Shad from accessing their historic spawning grounds, resulting in a 90% fish decline.

In an effort to restore fish populations the first dam, located 32 miles upriver from Wilmington, NC was retrofitted with the first rock arch ramp. The “fish ladder” accommodates migrating fish by providing a structure that utilizes specially placed granite to allow fish to leap up and over the various levels until they are well over the dam.

The project has a two year study to investigate the success of the rock arch ramp. This year has been the first migrating season since the fish ladder has been in place. Results from fish tags provided by the Division of Marine Fisheries show that the fish are using the passageway to reach upstream waters for the first time in a hundred years.

As a result, planning and funding research has begun to retrofit the remaining two dams with rock arch ramps.

To learn more, check out some of these links:

Before (left) and after (right) installation of rock arch ramp. Photo credit: NCSU.

Before (left) and after (right) installation of rock arch ramp. Photo credit: NCSU.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

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