Thursday, June 21, 2012

Got Shad?

This week’s endangered species of the week isn’t listed under the Endangered Species Act, but it’s population is depleted and now is the time to protect it – it’s the American Shad (Alosa sapidissima)(photo from Chesapeake Bay Program).  The American Shad is the most common shad in the ChesapeakeShad- American shad once supported the most valuable finfish fishery in the Chesapeake Bay. Today, commercial and recreational shad harvest is closed throughout most of the region. (Jim Cummins/Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin) Bay area.  It sits in the middle of the food chain, eating plankton and serving as a food source for larger species.  American Shad are anadromous; like the better known salmon, they are born in freshwater streams, live in the ocean for most of their lives, and return to their natal streams to spawn (up to 100,000-600,000 per female per spring, according to the Chesapeake Bay program!)  Here’s another cool think about shad – do you have serviceberry in your yard?  Serviceberry is also known as “shadbush” locally, because it blooms at about the same time as the shad begin their migration in the spring (there’s even a book about it, When the Shadbush Blooms).

So what is threatening the shad?  Overharvest (the fishery has been closed for many years), pollution, and dams that block migration are the main threats.  Shad are swimmers, rather than jumpers, so even the smallest dam can be an impossible barrier for shad.  Check out this informative short video from the Chesapeake Bay program on efforts being made to remove dams and protect shad.

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