Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute Releasing Brook Trout

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - by Thom Benson
The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, TNACI, is working with conservation partners to restore colorful Southern Appalachian Brook Trout.
The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, TNACI, is working with conservation partners to restore colorful Southern Appalachian Brook Trout.
- photo by Todd Stailey

The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, TNACI, will release more than 200 Southern Appalachian Brook Trout in Hampton Creek as part of a new long-term effort to restore these beautiful fish to their native waters. The release will be at noon on Thursday, at Hampton Creek Cove Scenic-Recreational State Natural Area – Carter County, TN. 

TNACI is working with National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, the Tennessee Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the U.S. Forest Service on this restoration project.

The colorful Southern Appalachian Brook Trout, SABT, is the only species of trout that is native to Tennessee. Once abundant in the clear, cool mountain streams of east Tennessee, the SABT is found in only three percent of its historical range today.

Last October, TNACI scientists, working with biologists from TWRA, removed 50 adult SABT from Hampton Creek to begin propagating the fish at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.

For the first time, more than 200 SABT offspring were successfully reared in a closed-circulation system. These juveniles have been tagged and will be reintroduced to Hampton Creek.

Dr. Anna George, TNACI director; Kathlina Alford, TNACI conservation associate; and Jason Henegar, TWRA will be on site.

The Southern Appalachian Brook Trout, SABT, is one of the most beautiful aquatic treasures that the Appalachian Mountains have to offer, with bright golden spots and vivid red bellies. Being one of the smallest members of the Salmon family and one of the more challenging to locate, this unique fish is a prize among trout fishermen.

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. In many areas, forests have been repaired along streams creating more favorable conditions for SABT restoration work.

The National Fish & Wildlife Federation 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 biologists collected 50 brood fish in October 2012. Eggs and milt were collected from these brood fish with the help of trout experts from TWRA and USFWS. Fertile eggs began developing in late October and by the end of November baby trout began hatching.

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.

Directions: http://www.tn.gov/environment/na/natareas/hampton/

Detailed Map: http://www.tn.gov/environment/na/natareas/hampton/hampton.pdf

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