Sales of the eye-catching Trout Unlimited specialty license plate are helping the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, TNACI, restore the state’s only native trout species.
Steve Fry, president of the Appalachian Chapter of Trout Unlimited, presented a check for more than $9,500 to Dr. Anna George to help bolster TNACI’s Brook Trout restoration efforts. “We are dedicated to Southern Appalachian Brook Trout restoration,” Mr. Fry said. “The Aquarium’s efforts with Brook Trout have been outstanding and we want to see their success continue and grow.”
For the past year, TNACI has been working with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Tech University, U.S. Fish & Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service on a new program to restore Southern Appalachian Brook Trout. With funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, fifty adult fish were collected from Hampton Creek, near Roan Mountain, Tennessee in October 2012. Within a month, fertilized eggs were produced and soon baby Brook Trout began hatching at TNACI. This marked a conservation milestone - the first time this species was successfully raised in a closed-circulation system.
In August, 255 juvenile “brookies” were reintroduced to Hampton Creek. Compared to Lake Sturgeon reintroductions, this was an unusual fish release. The fish were carried in buckets and distributed, one or two at a time, into the small pools of clear water below rushing falls. Biologists hiked up the mountain about two miles before all of the fish were released.
Additional adults were collected last month from Hampton Creek. Juveniles will be reared from these fish and the adults collected in 2012 helping to maintain genetic diversity of the offspring. “We are excited to collaborate with Trout Unlimited, as well as our government and university partners to strengthen populations of these beautiful native fish,” said Dr. Anna George, TNACI director. “The research accomplished through this partnership gives us the tools we need to preserve this species long-term as environmental pressures increase.”
Funding for this new grant comes directly from the sale of Trout Unlimited specialty license plates. Funds earmarked for these plates are allocated in equal amounts to the Tennessee Chapters of Trout Unlimited. This money is then available for use exclusively in Tennessee to further the organization’s mission to conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.
According to the Tennessee Department of Revenue, more than 2,500 drivers have the Trout Unlimited specialty plate.