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Conservation News - Tennessee Aquarium Releases 255 Brook Trout

9/4/2013 5:17:39 PM

The National Fish & Wildlife Foundation awarded a grant to Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute to participate in a study to perfect captive breeding techniques for this species. There is a significant need to progress captive propagation efforts for this species before the remaining distinct populations decline further in the wild. 255 Brook Trout were recently released, marking the first successful rearing of this species in a closed-circulation system.

The Southern Appalachian Brook Trout is one of the most beautiful aquatic animals in the Southeast.

Above: The Southern Appalachian Brook Trout is easily identified by its bright red belly and striking gold markings.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                    Contact: Thom Benson 423-785-3007

Tennessee Aquarium Releases 255 Brook Trout
Successful Start to Restore Tennessee’s Only Native Trout

Chattanooga, Tenn. (August 30, 2013) – The Southern Appalachian Brook Trout, SABT, is one of the most beautiful aquatic animals in the Appalachian Mountains. These colorful fish seem to herald the coming of autumn as their brilliant red bellies and bright golden spots appear with the change in seasons. “There’s no mistaking Southern Appalachian Brook Trout when they display their breeding colors,” said Dr. Anna George, director of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute (TNACI). “They are the only native freshwater fish in the Southeast with a primary spawn in the fall.”

Once abundant in the mountain headwaters of East Tennessee, SABT are down to just three percent of their historical range today. Logging activities wiped out large portions of the habitat for this fish. When SABT numbers dwindled, many sites were overtaken by Rainbow Trout, a non-native species that can withstand warmer water and more direct sunlight. “Recent efforts to restore the forested areas along these streams are paying off,” said Dr. George. “So there is an opportunity today to begin recovery work for the Southern Appalachian Brook Trout which is Tennessee’s only native trout.”
 
The National Fish & Wildlife Foundation awarded a grant to TNACI to participate in a study to perfect captive breeding techniques for this species. There is a significant need to progress captive propagation efforts for this species before the remaining distinct populations decline further in the wild.

TNACI biologist Kathlina Alford collecting adult Brook Trout in October 2012. 

Above: Kathlina Alford, TNACI conservation associate, collecting adult Brook Trout in October 2012.

TNACI biologists collected 50 brood fish from Hampton Creek, located in Carter County, TN, in October 2012. These adults were brought back to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. 
Fertilized Brook Trout eggs at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Above: Fertilized Brook Trout eggs at the Tennessee Aquarium. Eyes can be seen inside the eggs.

Eggs and milt were collected from these brood fish with the help of trout experts from Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, TWRA, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, USFWS. Fertile eggs began developing in late October and by the end of November baby trout began hatching marking the first time this species had been successfully reared in a closed-circulation system.
Yolk-sac trout larvae at the Tennessee Aquarium

Above: The first successful hatchlings, known as yolk-sac fry larvae, at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Before this success at TNACI, Southern Appalachian Brook Trout had only been successfully raised at the Tellico Fish Hatchery in the Cherokee National Forest a few times. Their success, using water from the source stream, inspired the idea that TNACI scientists could do the same thing at the Aquarium using chilled and dechlorinated tap water sourced from the City of Chattanooga. Because most hatcheries operate using flow-through water systems, concern exists about the transmission of disease and escaped fish to nearby wild populations.
Dr. Bernie Kuhajda and Kathlina Alford release Brook Trout in Hampton Creek.

Above: Dr. Bernie Kuhajda and Kathlina Alford release Brook Trout in Hampton Creek.

On Thursday, August 29th, TNACI biologists returned to Hampton Creek to release 255 juvenile trout with TWRA. “Each fish was implanted with a tiny wire tag,” said Dr. George. “A graduate student from Tennessee Tech University will survey Hampton Creek in January to obtain some baseline information for this project. A handheld detector will tell us which trout were released this summer.”

Dr. Anna George releases Brook Trout into Hampton Creek.

Above: Dr. Anna George releases the last of 255 Brook Trout into Hampton Creek.

This first propagation success and release has taken just under one year to achieve. Biologists will begin the whole process again in another month, inching closer to an expanded program that might one day ensure that anglers throughout the region find robust populations of these gorgeous fish. 

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