Sea Grant Aquaculture Research Program 2010: Working with New England Communities to Restore Winter Flounder Populations - Developing Pilot Scale Stock Enhancement Programs (NSI)
|Elizabeth Fairchild||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences||Principal Investigator|
|Ken La Valley||UNH - Cooperative Extension||Co-Principal Investigator|
|Warren Doty||Martha's Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen's Association||Collaborator|
|Nathan Rennels||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences||Technician|
|Bret Stearns||Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah||Collaborator|
|Kimberly Little||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences||Technician|
|Kristin Garabedian||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences||Technician|
|Leanna Giordano||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Mackenzie Nine||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Marcella Andrews||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|David Bailey||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Anna Gerber-Williams||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Sarah Geromini||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Katherine Rafuse||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Elise Koob||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Bethany Wolfert||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Nicole Wong||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Danielle Nichols||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Samantha Jacobus||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Jillian Price||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Rebecca Wright||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Joseph Hollenbeck||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Ethan Ely||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Joelle Mangelinckx||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Shelley Edmundson||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Erica Richard||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
|Sarah Murphy||UNH - Department of Biological Sciences|
Biomass of winter flounder Pseudopleuronectes americanus, a target species of both recreational and commercial fisheries, is at an all-time low, and due to new unprecedented regulations, the largest of the three stocks is closed to all fishing activities in federal waters. Winter flounder population recovery could be expedited by enhancement (Waters 1996; Le Francois et al. 2002), and experimental restocking studies have been conducted since 1996 by scientists at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). The goal of past projects has not been to initiate large-scale releases. Instead, the “responsible approach” (Blankenship & Leber 1995) has been applied to develop the processes needed to successfully enhance winter flounder by answering key questions in the event that large-scale restocking efforts occur. These experiments have shown that:
1) Winter flounder can be successfully cultured, tagged, conditioned, and released into the wild, and
2) Released winter flounder then “behave” much like wild fish in that there are similarities in habitat utilization, movements, home range, growth and diet.
Unfortunately due to the lack of adequate space at UNH for large-scale, on-shore aquaculture, rearing the magnitude of hatchery fish to fully test the efficacy of restocking winter flounder has not been possible.
The possibility that restocking winter flounder could help the diminished wild stocks has elicited interest from several New England communities. Of these, officials and fishermen from the towns of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. sought advice from Fairchild and UNH. Due to their character (eagerness, motivation, diligence, well-organized), the towns’ natural resources (historically high winter flounder populations, high quality winter flounder nursery areas, existing wild spawning winter flounder stock), and the location of nearby aquaculture facilities capable of producing enough juvenile winter flounder for releases and willing to participate in this project (Wampanoag Tribe Hatchery ), these communities tested winter flounder enhancement strategies.This project initiated a regional winter flounder restocking effort following the “responsible approach” guidelines (Blankenship and Leber 1995) in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. This project is a regional collaborative effort that includes fishermen, scientists, and managers who engage in research to find ways to protect and enhance the winter flounder and its fishery.
Database created for ecosystem survey data from Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
Stock enhancement program developed for winter flounder
N.H. Sea Grant-funded researchers designed a stock enhancement program to improve winter flounder populations on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., while ensuring the ecosystem remained healthy. This program has been presented to help train communities interested in adopting these methods, thus increasing the likelihood that careful ecosystem-based management practices will be utilized in the future.
NHSG Researchers Determine Best Release Strategy for Winter Flounder Stock Enhancement Efforts
NHSG-funded Efforts Lead to Mass-production of Winter Flounder for Stock Enhancement
Fishermen and resource managers are seeking ways to improve winter flounder populations in waters off of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Stock enhancement may be a viable method to reach that goal, but local fishermen and resource managers needed additional expertise to begin those efforts. After renovations of an old shellfish hatchery on the island were complete, NHSG-funded researchers trained project volunteers in 2012 to take the lead on aquaculture tasks including fish spawning, broodstock management, larviculture and live feeds culture. Based on this training, project volunteers produced and raised 4,310 hatchery-reared juvenile flounder for eventual stocking in an estuary on the island. These efforts demonstrated the ability to start a stock enhancement project in a community with little or no aquaculture expertise and successfully mass-produce winter flounder in a hatchery setting.
Tagging Study Established to Determine Effectiveness of Stock Enhancement Strategy for Winter Flounder
In 2012, NHSG-funded researchers worked with volunteers and students to establish a tagging study to determine the effectiveness of stock enhancement on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Juvenile winter flounder that were raised in the hatchery were tagged and later released into an estuary on the island. Researchers developed posters, mailings and gave presentations to fishermen on the island to encourage them to return any tagged flounder they catch in their dredges. In addition, a monthly monetary lottery was established to increase tag reporting participation. The results from this tagging effort will help inform resource managers about the effectiveness of winter flounder stock enhancement efforts.
NHSG Publication Highlights Winter Flounder Research Results
Winter flounder populations in waters near Martha’s Vineyard have declined dramatically in recent years. Using Sea Grant funds, a UNH researcher conducted studies to determine the most effective stock enhancement technique for that area. NHSG produced a four-page publication in 2012, “Bringing winter flounder back to Martha’s Vineyard through community engagement,” summarizing this research that was distributed to stakeholders, project collaborators and potential future funding agencies to increase awareness of the project, highlight its accomplishments, and document the need for further studies. This publication will also deliver important information for other communities and organizations interested in using stock enhancement to help improve populations of flounder and other related species.
At the end of the first year, this project is on track in all activities. The first workshop was held to train project participants and a manual was written for them. Topics at the workshop included the project logistics, responsible approach, winter flounder enhancement research at UNH, and winter flounder aquaculture.The manual covers how to culture winter flounder (including rearing live feeds), and explains the rationale behind establishing a responsible approach for enhancement programs, and how to determine optimal release strategies.
Available from the National Sea Grant Library (use NHU number to search) or NH Sea Grant
- Walsh, M. and E. Fairchild (2013). Flatfish conditioning for stock enhancement. The global aquaculture advocate 16(6):48-49, November/December 2013.
- Walsh, M. (2012). Flatfish stock enhancement: examining conditioning strategies to promote success. Doctoral dissertation, University of New Hampshire.
- Determining stocking strategies and culturing winter flounder ("Pseudopleuronectes americanus") for enhancement programs (2010). Elizabeth Fairchild and Nathan Rennels.
- Bringing winter flounder back to Martha's Vineyard through community engagement (2013). Elizabeth Fairchild.