A Proposal to Expand North Atlantic Right Whale Protection Zones

Jake Yankee- Natural Resources Conservation

Olivia Babine- Environmental Science

Ben D’Ambra- Horticultural Science

Kayshauna Montano- Animal Science


The North Atlantic right whale, Eubalaena glacialis, faces a number of challenges to its recovery. Their habitat includes the waters off the U.S. East coast where they come into contact with pollutants, fishing gear, and boats that threaten their survival. The greatest source of right whale mortality is collisions with vessels. In order to mitigate this problem, researchers have utilized a number of strategies to help vessels and whales occupy the same space without colliding with one another. One of the most popular strategies is vessel speed restriction zones. These  are geographic areas in the ocean designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration where vessels must slow down to accommodate right whales (Mullen 2013). While these zones cover much of the right whale’s current range, their distribution is patchy with long stretches of unprotected space between them and they do not extend far enough offshore to cover the whale’s entire habitat. To increase the effectiveness of these zones and better protect right whales from ship strikes, we propose that protection areas be expanded to cover the entire U.S. East coast and to extend 30 nautical miles offshore.

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Hydroelectric Power in The Snake River


Samantha Bruha: Animal Science

Shane Murphy: Horticulture

Jake Schick: Building Construction Technology

Ashley Artwork: Building Construction Technology

The Nez Perce people reside on the Snake River in North Central Idaho and still practice a hunter-gatherer way of life (Smith, 2018).  In 1855, The United States Government and five Native American tribes residing in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho signed the Treaty of Walla Walla (Smith, 2018)  Since the the original treaty, the Nez Perce Tribe has retained the right to fish, to hunt, and to graze livestock on unclaimed lands outside of the reservation (Smith, 2018).  Due to the addition of hydroelectric dams, beginning in the 1950’s on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, the Nez Perce Tribe has suffered a great loss of fishing resources from the effects of dams on the Salmon populations (Quirke, 2017).  Elliott Moffett, a 65 year old member of the Nez Perce Tribe, fights for Salmon in the lower Snake River (Quirke, 2017). “‘I like to say we are like the Salmon, we need clean, cold, swift running water. And they don’t have that because the dams have impounded their river,’” Moffett states (Quirke, 2017).  Moffett and his fellow activists at the Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment organization, have dedicated their lives to defending the environment and the Nez Perce rights (Support|Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, 2018).  Every decision the tribe makes has “seven generations ahead” in mind and the scarcity of resources is making it harder and harder to teach future generations how to live off of the land (Support|Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, 2018).

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Extending SMA’s by 10 NM to Reduce Vessel Strikes with North Atlantic Right Whales

Abigail Szczepanek, major Natural  Resource Conservation

Hannah Davin, major Environmental Science

Beau Salamon-Davis, major BCT

Most animals names are derived from greek or latin terms, describing their looks or features. The North Atlantic right whale (NARW) is a special case. The right whale coined its name some time in the 17th or 18th century when whaling was becoming popular. Crane (2002) and National Geographic (2018) say they were considered the “right” whale to hunt because they are surface feeders, slow swimmers, yield high amounts of oil, meat and bone, and they float when they are dead. This made them easy targets and were hunted for nearly three centuries. Whalers would either shoot or throw a whale iron, otherwise known as a harpoon, into a whales blubber to create a connection between their boat and the whale. They would pull themselves in closer to the whale and plunge a barbed weapon into the whales lung or heart, ultimately killing it (New Bedford Whaling Museum, 2018). By 1937 there were less than 100 NARW left and commercial whaling was banned internationally (Marine Mammal Science, 2018). The whale was placed under the Endangered Species Act in 1970 (NOAA, 2018). Currently there are only 450 NARW’s left in the Atlantic Ocean and complete extinction is nearing within the next century (Gibbins, 2018). Continue Reading

It’s Sink or Swim for Lobsters in Southern New England: Climate Change is Turning Southern New England into a Boiling Pot and Lobsters are Leaving

There are two stories in New England currently: one of success and one of failure. The lobster fishing industry is without question one of the most significant parts of the New England identity and culture. Lobster fishing has provided a lucrative livelihood since the 1800s and continues to do so for those fishing in Northern New England. While those fishing for lobster in the North are hauling record numbers, the industry in the South has been heading toward the verge of collapse since the late 1990s. Tom Tomkiewicz, a Massachusetts lobsterman who fishes in Long Island Sound describes it himself, saying “there is nothing here… it’s crazy” (Abel, 2017). How can one of the biggest industries of a region suddenly be at massively different levels of success? The answer lies in the rising temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean and historic management practices that have lead to this disparity. Continue Reading

Preserving New England Lobster Fisheries in the Face of Climate Change

By Thomas Isabel, Hannah Brady, and Shawn Monast

Since the 1970’s, the waters off the coast of Southern New England have been warming at a startling rate due to a toxic combination of man-made factors including greenhouse gases and pollution. These changes to the Earth’s atmosphere are happening at a rapid pace, making climate change one of the biggest issues facing humanity. The aqua life inhabiting oceans, especially coastal waters, are being forced farther North into ocean environments with cooler temperatures fitting their ideal thermal range. One of the many species being affected by increasing water temperature is the American lobster, scientifically known as the Homarus Americanus. These ocean creatures have been around for almost 500 million years, long before any humans were recorded on Earth, and they are now being pushed out of their homes as a consequence of human actions. Although lobsters constantly face different challenges to their populations such as predation and disease, climate change has become their biggest threat in the last decade. Fishermen all along the Eastern coastline rely on the catch and sale of lobsters to make a living to support their families and keep the market afloat. Without this species, fishermen and seafood establishments would miss out on a potentially crucial portion of revenue and be forced to rely on the catch and sale of other ocean species or perhaps a different profession in the fishing industry. The American lobster makes up a large percentage of income for fisherman and their migration due to global warming is crippling the economy of coastal regions. In order to save lobster fisheries in southern New England from climate change, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission needs to educate fishermen on the constant changes in thermal temperatures range, new production possibilities, and the migration patterns through technological advancements.  

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Impacts of Climate Change on Southern New England Lobster Fisheries

Victoria Bouffard, Pre-Veterinary Science

Matt Sullivan, Horticulture

James Sullivan, Fisheries

Southern New England fisherman are still catching lobsters, but not in the way they want to be. They are not being caught in traps or nets, but in the stomachs of their predators. Bart Mansi, a lobster fisherman from Long Island Sound, hears from the local bass fisherman about the baby lobsters they find eaten by their catch. Some of the sea bass they pull in have over 10 baby lobsters in their stomachs. This not an uncommon occurrence,  multiple factors are involved with the scarcity of lobsters in southern New England, and increased predation is just the icing on the cake (Skahill & Mack, 2017). The southern New england lobster population has declined dramatically in the past few decades, while catches in Maine have soared. Harvests in Northern regions like the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank have seen an increase from 14,600 mt (metric tons) in 1990 to 33,000+ mt in 2009, and from 1,300 mt in 1982 to 2,400 mt in 2007, respectively. While the southern New England region landings in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and the New York border of Long Island Sound, declined from a peak of 10,000 mt from 1997 to 1999, to a low of less than 3,000 mt from 2003 to 2007 (Howell 2012). This dramatic shift in lobster settlement is due to a combination of factors, the most pressing being climate change. The Atlantic Ocean has increased by 0.23℃ every decade from 1982 to 2006, with temperatures varying by region (Pinsky & Fogarty, 2012). As the ocean temperatures rise, the more southern regions of New England are crossing a temperature threshold in which the water is no longer hospitable to lobsters, causing them to migrate North.

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Fish farms won’t let native populations off the hook


Atlantic Salmon in Kuterra’s on-land fish farm

In late August 2017, a fish farm owned by Cooke Aquaculture allowed more than 300,000 non-native Atlantic salmon escape into the Puget Sound of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Washington state. Several days passed before a salvage team was hired. The main goal of the salvage team is to create a rapid-response center and encourage recreational fishers to catch as many salmon as possible. Earlier that year, Cooke submitted an application for “replacement and reorientation” of the facility to replace or repair the old-fashion steel cages the previous company had used prior to Cooke buying them out in 2016. The application stated that the system was “nearing the end of serviceable life,” and that repairs were needed in September, after the August salmon harvest (Kim E.T., 2017, para.5). A month before the collapse, Cooke had to complete an emergency repair to stabilize the crumbling facility. The emergency repair was to add extra anchors to the site because old ones had come loose and the site drifted away. Despite these concerns, state and federal agencies were not overly worried and figured the farm would remain stable until September and therefore did not ask them to replace the farm ahead of schedule (Kim E.T., 2017). After the escape incident in August, only about 146,000 of the 300,0000 escaped fish were recaptured (Kim E.T., 2017, para.1). Therefore, more than half of the escaped Atlantic salmon were released into the Pacific Ocean. Typically, Atlantic salmon are known to be more aggressive than Pacific salmon and some of the escaped salmon swam upstream towards spawning areas (Alaska Department of Fish and Game [ADFG], 2017; Kim E.T., 2017). Farmed Atlantic salmon can be identified through a mark left on their ear bone by Cooke aquaculture, and have been identified as far north as Fraser River in British Columbia (Mapes, 2017). Even after losing over 300,000 Atlantic salmon in August, Cooke aquaculture at Puget Sound was granted a permit in October to have one million more Atlantic salmon added to their farm. The only requirement for this permit was that the fish moving from the hatchery to the outside pens carry no disease. Their operation was granted the permit even though their prior escape is still under investigation (Mapes, 2017). Cooke’s main argument for the permit was that they had hatched salmon in their hatcheries and it was biologically time for them to move into the water. This is understandable due to rising demand of fish for consumption over the past few years.


In fact, the seafood industry has grown so much that industrial fishing can no longer support the demands of consumers resulting in the overfishing of oceans (Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO], 2011;World Wildlife Fund [WWF], 2017). Overfishing occurs when so many fish are being captured from the ocean that the species cannot reproductively keep up (WWF, 2017). In 2012, about 21% of fish stocks were considered overfished (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] Fisheries, 2013, Table 1).

Just like farms on land that produce cows, chickens and pigs for consumption, fish farms are continuing to pop up in our local waters and are solving the problem of overfishing native populations. Aquaculture, the operation of raising fish commercially, supplies more than 50% of seafood produced for consumption, a number that will continue to rise (NOAA Fisheries, 2017-a, para.7). A report from NOAA fisheries illustrated that in 2015, the fish industry generated $208 billion dollars in sales and supported 1.6 million jobs across the United States (NOAA Fisheries, 2017-b, para. 6). In 2016, fish farms aided in bringing the previous 21% of overfished stocks down to 16% (NOAA Fisheries 2016, Table 2). By farming species that were once overfished, aquaculture facilities allow endangered populations to regenerate themselves (NOAA Fisheries, 2016). While the farmed fish industry continues to grow and reduces overfishing, it consequently poses significant risk to surrounding ecosystems when farmed fish escape and introduce parasites, compete for resources, and interbreed with native species. Between 1996 and 2012 close to 26 million fish were released from aquaculture facilities worldwide, that’s an average of about 1.5 million per year, and that’s just reported escapes (Center for Food Safety [CFS], 2012, Table 1). Fish escapes are common all around the world. For example, in Scotland, The Scottish Salmon Company reported that 300,000 Atlantic salmon escaped on May 21, 2017 (Scotland’s Aquaculture, 2017, pg. 2). The escape was said to be caused by the weather. Similarly, another Scottish company, Scottish Sea Farms ltd., reported that a predator caused 17,398 Atlantic salmon to escape from their farm on March 25, 2017 (Scotland’s Aquaculture, 2017, pg. 1). Furthermore, in 2010, 138,000 salmon escaped from pens in Grand Manan Canada from Admiral Fish Farm ltd. (Canadian Press, 2011, para. 2). President of the company, Glen Brown said that the breach was due to storms that prevented repair for more than four days (Canadian Press, 2011, para. 4). This escape could have been prevented if the regulations in place were upheld and state and national officials mandated the pens were fixed prior to the escape. The regulations in place currently are insufficient, and should be revised to prevent bigger and more detrimental escapes from occurring in the future. So, how can we continue to produce farmed fish while limiting the harmful effects of escape on the ecosystem? By improving legislative requirements on fish farms and increasing the number of on-land aquaculture facilities, the ecosystem will be better protected from escaped fish and the parasites, competition, and gene transmission they produce.

When the spawn of wild salmon hatch, they leave the spawning area and do not return until maturity is reached at around two years of age (Martyal, 2010). In the Broughton Archipelago of Western Canada, from 2001 to 2002, the population of expected spawn to return to the spawning area declined by 97% (Martyal, 2010, para. 2). When the population was examined, 90% of the juvenile wild salmon had contracted sea lice (Martyal, 2010, para. 2). 

Sea lice are parasites that feed on bodies of fish leaving open wounds that are susceptible to disease (Farmed and Dangerous, n.d.). Farmed fish are prone to getting sea lice due to being held in crowded cages, which is an ideal breeding area for lice. Juvenile salmon are most susceptible to getting sea lice since their scales have not fully developed, therefore it is easier for the lice to attach and eat away at their flesh (Farmed and Dangerous, n.d). In 2004, all the fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago area were found to have 29.5 million sea lice (Martyal, 2010, para. 6). When wild juveniles come in contact with infected farmed salmon on their two year journey before returning the the spawning area. This is because most fish farms are found in sheltered water areas along wild salmon migration routes (Farmed and Dangerous, n.d.). The juveniles must make it through 50 miles of fish farms before reaching open water (SeaWeb, 2007). Fishery ecologist from the University of Alberta, Martin Krkosek estimates that sea lice kills more than 80% of the salmon expected to return to their spawning sites (SeaWeb, 2007, para. 1). Additionally, Director of the Salmon Coast Field Station, Alexandra Morton addresses that the juvenile salmon from Broughton must be introduced to sea lice through farmed fish because the parents of the juveniles that carry the parasite are too far offshore (SeaWeb, 2007). Morton also confirms the idea that juveniles are too weak to survive sea lice infections (SeaWeb, 2007). Therefore, it is more than likely that the juvenile salmon are contracting sea lice from nearby escaped farmed fish.

One of the more prevalent issues that arises once large amounts of fish escape from aquaculture pens is competition between wild populations and farm-bred populations. Using salmon as a model organism, we can look further into the issues that arise when aquaculture-bred fish begin to interact with ecosystems originally inhabited by natural, wild fish stock.

First and foremost, dietary competition poses a huge threat of starving out endemic populations of salmon once their farm-bred counterparts emigrate to their habitats. Since the domesticated salmon and wild salmon share the same diet, the arrival of additional organisms to an ecosystem gives rise to the threat of surpassing the carrying capacity of said ecosystem and putting both farmed and wild fish at risk of starvation due to resource depletion (Naylor et al., 2005).

This risk is compounded even further by the nature of farm-bred salmon. Since aquaculture farms select for larger, meat-rich fish, farm-bred salmon have selection pressures in their favor (Bajak et al., 2016). Displaying more aggressive behavior, coupled with their larger biomass, farmed salmon are able to exhibit more fitness in acquiring food than their wild cousins, threatening the natural balance of a fragile ecosystem and causing complete ecological collapse (Naylor et al., 2005; Glover et al., 2016). With roughly 40% of salmon caught off the coast of the Faroe Islands being of farmed origin, the true implications of this new-found competition are only beginning to unfold (Naylor et al., 2005, pg. 427).

Not only do farmed salmon pose a risk of starving out wild salmonids, but they also display invasive behaviors in regards to nesting and foraging grounds, displacing native fish stock to more predated waters, potentially with very little resources (Toledo-Guedes et al., 2014).  A study by Van Zwol and associates found data showing that the David’s score (a metric of ecological dominance determined by behavioral analysis) of native salmon dropped when invasive species were introduced to their habitat. This directly resulted in reduced food consumption in the native stock by 40% (Van Zwol et al., 2012, fig. 1). The rise of feral populations of farmed salmonids and the subsequent competition between them and wild stock is a growing concern among ocean ecologists, and is directly tied to decreases in wild salmon population by as much as 50% in recent years (Naylor et al., 2005; Castle, 2017, para. 5).

Similarly, farmed fish can introduce new genes to a native population. When escaped fish mate with their native cousins, populations overtime start to show genetic similarities. Nearly half of the wild salmon population in Norway share about 40% of the gene pool of nearby farmed salmon , showing that the blurring of lines between these two distinct populations is already beginning to unfold (Bajak et al., 2016, para. 3). This may seem harmless, but these traits that are being passed from farmed to wild salmon are not desirable in an open ocean setting. Typically, farmed salmon have a lower fitness and survival rate than wild salmon because they are so used to having their survival needs provided for them by farmers. In this area of weak natural selection, and breeding efforts focused solely on production purposes, domesticated salmon with genetically inherited aggressive behavior put them at increased risk of predation. The same traits that allow farm bred salmon to dietarily out compete wild stock puts them in more danger of being killed by predators (Roberge et al., 2008). When traits are passed on to the hybrid population, they are not as successful as their wild parent and have a greater potential of death. According to the Norwegian Institute of Nature Research and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, by interbreeding native and farmed fish species over two generations there is a significant decline in success, fitness and overall population size (Bajak et al., 2016). A study conducted by Roberge and colleagues, confirms these findings . Roberge compared the level of gene transcription within the genomes of wild and second generation hybrids of wild and farmed salmon. It was found that over 6% of genes had significantly different transcription levels than the first generation cross between the native and farmed population (Roberge et al., 2008, pg. 314). If detrimental genes are propelled into expression by this shock to the genetic system of wild salmon, or if normally functioning genes are overexpressed, the overall fitness of the wild population could exponentially decline. Dr. Christian Roberge, an expert researcher in the field of the effects of salmon hybridization at Laval University claims that this is a serious cause for concern in coming years, as it can lead to population collapse when combined with the other issues highlighted in this paper (Roberge et al., 2008).

Further compounding the damaging effects of interbreeding, the triploidy of hybrid salmon has the potential to majorly contribute to population collapse. Much like mules, horse-donkey hybrids, hybrid salmon possess three sets of chromosomes in comparison to a regular organism’s two, rendering them incapable of reproduction (Fjelldall et al., 2014). Therefore, if a large amount of triploid hybrid salmon are present in a population, mass die offs and subsequent population decreases are inevitable, as the population has no means of sustaining itself if it cannot reproduce at a rate faster than it dies off.

By gene transmission between wild and farmed populations, and the proliferation of triploidy, the overall survival rate for fish in wild ocean environments are declining and causing a deleterious effect on the ecosystem. A successful ecosystem needs high survival rates for it organisms by ensuring specific health needs are met. As Dr. Roberge highlighted in his analysis of the genetic transcription differences between native and farmed salmon, these issues will only compound with time, and can quickly get out of control if we do not do anything to rectify them.

Aquaculture is a complicated system that falls under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency along with several other state and federal agencies in the United States (Centers for Epidemiology & Animal Health, 1995). The EPA sets effluent limitation guidelines (ELGs), which restrict the allowable amount of pollution that large Concentrated Animal Production Facilities (CAAP) can produce (Harvard Law School et al., 2012). By the Clean Water Act (CWA) definition, any CAAP that has a “discernible, confined and discrete conveyance… from which pollutants are or may be discharged” is termed a point source polluter (Harvard Law School et al., 2012). The CWA is regulated under the EPA (Harvard Law School et al., 2012).Through the EPA aquaculture facilities are regulated as point source polluters if they produce more than 20,000 (cold water facilities) or 100,000 (warm water facilities) pounds of fish per year and use 5,000 pounds or more of feed per month for at least 30 days per year (Harvard Law School et al., 2012). However, ELGs do not apply to CAAPs that do not fall below these requirements and are instead governed by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) (Harvard Law School et al., 2012). Under the NPDES these facilities are required to obtain a permit with specific effluent limitations based off the judgement of the individual writing the permit (Harvard Law School et al., 2012). Therefore, there are no strict guidelines, just the permit writer’s assessment. ELGs can have both numeric and narrative limitations but do not require one or the other (Harvard Law School et al., 2012). While for larger CAAPs, ELGs help regulate the limitation of food input necessary for production, the proper storage of drugs and pesticides, and routine inspections, they do not explicitly address fish escape as a problem (Harvard Law School et al., 2012).

While there are massive ecological consequences to fish escape, the most direct and immediate effect felt by people is the economic damage caused by lost fish. Across six European nations (United Kingdom, Norway, Malta, Ireland, Spain and Greece) over a three year period, 8,922,863 fish escaped in 242 incidents, with over five million of those occurring during two catastrophic events. This accounts for a €47.5 million loss per year, or $56,391,050 (Jackson et al., 2015 , pg. 22). This cost alone is incentive for increased regulations, as solving the fish escape problem would mean cheaper fish for consumers and more profits for the farmers.

Many detractors of legislation would claim that it’s impossible to impose legislation into the mix of a low-profitability production environment such as fisheries. Increasing profitability and employment in the industry all while increasing protection to the environment can seem unattainable, but these are exactly the regulatory goals Norway has adopted in regards to its massive fisheries industry. Despite being the 118th largest country by population, Norway is the world’s 10th largest producer of fish (Årland, & Bjørndal, 2002, pg. 309). By instituting annual quotas for total allowable catches for various species, as well as freezing and sometimes even cutting allowable production in at-risk areas for pathogen transmission, Norway has effectively been able to manage stock populations and detriment to the environment effectively (Castle, 2017). Between 2006 and 2010, fish escapes in Norway decreased precipitously from 290,000 to just 70,000, an over 400% decrease (CFS, 2012, Table 1). This is concrete evidence of the feasibility and efficacy of regulations in the aquaculture industry, and legislators would be wise to follow Norway’s highly successful path.

Cooke aquaculture at Puget Sound is currently under investigation because the Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) has filed a citizen suit against them under the CWA (Schuitemaker, 2017). The CWA monitors the water quality impacts of aquaculture and any pollutants that are released into the water without a permit (Harvard Law School et al., 2012). The WFC maintains that Cooke should be held accountable because living organisms, like fish that are released into the water, are considered pollutants (Harvard Law School et al., 2012). If the set ELGs for large fish farms do not directly include protection against fish escape and continue to group escaped fish as a pollutant, why would individual perimeters for smaller farms consider it?

Regulations by the EPA should be expanded to include all size farms, and should acknowledge escaped fish separately from other pollutants. Additionally, new and existing regulations should be enforced and recorded more consistently to ensure that new aquaculture facilities are not constantly reinventing the wheel, and can obtain knowledge on running an environmentally and economically conscious facilities (Harvard Law School et al., 2012). If facilities are forced to limit the concentration of fish within a pen, less fish will escape into the open water, should an escape occur. If strict enough regulations, punishments and fines are implemented, few farms could skirt the responsibilities involved with running an ecologically sustainable aquaculture facility and maintain economic feasibility (Thorvaldsen et al., 2015).

Facilities should regularly be inspected by their operating company and the EPA to ensure fish pens are secure and can endure regular weather, tide, and ocean variabilities in the area (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2017). Increased inspections would limit the amount of equipment becoming dilapidated to prevent future escapes, like the one that occurred at Cooke aquaculture.

Even if no reprimanding action is taken or required of facilities, all incidents of escape should be recorded and investigated to prevent future incidents from occurring and to be used as guidelines for other facilities so they can avoid making the same errors (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2017; Harvard Law School et al., 2012; Scotland, 2017). A list of all escape incidences should be created and updated yearly to ensure an accurate number of escapees is gathered (Scotland, 2017; Fisheries and Oceans Canada, 2017).

While instituting new legislation is a viable solution to preventing environmental issues in regards to fish farms, the costs associated with implementing and enforcing regular inspections, water quality tests, and regulating farm sizes and outputs are considerable and discourage new players from entering the aquaculture industry (McCarthy and River, 2002). Stringent enforcement of these regulations is also absolutely necessary, as many companies simply skirt regulations when they lack oversight due to operational complications, lack of operator education, tight schedules and efficiency initiatives (Thorvaldsen et al., 2015).

In addition to increasing regulation, creating more on-land fish farm facilities will eliminate escape occurrences, and significantly decrease the environmental impacts fish farms have on open water ecosystems (O’Neill, 2017). When possible, moving fish farms to facilities on land could be the solution to preventing fish escape and the myriad of environmental issues mentioned previously that facilities produce in open water environments (Aukner, 2017). This solution readily applies to the majority of fish species, as moving to on-land facilities is a viable and more sustainable option, but for the majority of shellfish, like clams, oysters, and scallops farming in open water can be more beneficial to the environment than destructive by because these species can remove biotoxins, chemical contaminants, and pathogenic microorganisms during their natural process of filtering water for food and other resources (Connecticut Department of Agriculture, 2017). Kuterra, a land based aquaculture facility has had great success in starting an on-land fish farm, and releases documents containing information on the costs associated with on-land fish farming, guides to operating on-land facilities, and the benefits of farming on-land which are valuable to other companies interested in opening facilities (Kuterra, 2014). With the support of multiple national and international companies, their hope and mission is that more farms will open or move on shore in the future and by providing resources future companies can avoid costly trial and error processes (Kuterra, 2014). Several farmed species are marine fish, and therefore require access to saltwater, so on- land facilities are limited by location, needing to stay within several kilometers from a saltwater source in order to operate (Kuterra, 2014).

In order to create a sustainable and economically productive aquaculture industry going  forward, regulations must be changed to accommodate greater operational aspects of fish farms. This industry could and should be reshaped to prevent further degradation of the environment without sacrificing economic capacity. Additionally, innovations, such as on-land fish farms, must continue to be proposed and investigated for feasibility and efficacy. The future of mankind’s fisheries is at stake, and pivotal action must be taken to ensure the safety of our seafood supplies. We strongly advise following the advice of the wealth of experts cited in this paper, and implement strict regulations in the vein of Norway’s that regulate density of fish in net pens, total annual production limits and scalebacks, and fines for noncompliance.


Eleah Caseau, Environmental Science

Jenna Costa, Animal Science, Biotechnology Research

Trevor Klock, Plant and Soil Science



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Naylor, R., Hindar, K., & Fleming, I.A. (2005). Fugitive Salmon: Assessing the Risks of Escaped Fish from Net-Pen Aquaculture. Bioscience 55.5. 427-37, https://doi.org/10.1641/0006-3568(2005)055[0427:FSATRO]2.0.CO;2.

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Roberge, C., Normandeau, E., Einum, S., Guderley, H., & Bernatchez, L. (2008). Genetic consequences of interbreeding between farmed and wild atlantic salmon: insights from the transcriptome. Molecular Ecology 17(1). 314-24, DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03438.x

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World Wildlife Fund (2017). “Overfishing.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved from www.worldwildlife.org/threats/overfishing.

Dam… The Atlantic Salmon Are Gone


They start out looking like little, orange colored, tapioca balls, floating in large bundles at the bottom of a steadily moving river. These Atlantic salmon eggs, born in the Connecticut River, are at the very beginning stages of their life, having just been fertilized by a fully mature male Atlantic salmon. They will continue to grow and develop within the freshwater river into parr, or adolescent salmon, for two to four years, before they leave their home tributaries in the spring months and begin a journey that will take them downriver, through estuaries, and hundreds or thousands of miles to ocean feeding areas (Hendry & Cragg-Hine, 2003, p. 4 and McCormick, S. D., Hansen, L. P., Quinn, T. P., & Saunders, R. L., 1998, p. 77). When the developing salmon finally reach the ocean they are known as smolt, and they will then migrate to the coasts of New England, Canada, Greenland, and even Spain, France and the UK, where they will live for around a year before they return to their birthing grounds to spawn the next generation of Atlantic salmon (Hendry & Cragg-Hine, 2003, p.3). Along with long migrations, smolt now face finding new food sources, diseases, parasites, and predators in the vast ocean they have arrived at (McCormick et al., 1998, p. 77). The smolt that survive and thrive in their new environment for one winter now earn the title of grilse (Miramichi Salmon Association [MSA], 2015). Because development, winter survival, and sexual maturation require high levels of stored energy, feeding and growth are of prime importance during freshwater residence (McCormick et al., 1998, p. 78).

Unfortunately, this hasn’t happened within the Connecticut River system since the early 1800’s. With the construction of Turners Falls dam in Massachusetts in 1800, the last recorded spawning of Atlantic salmon was in 1809 and there has been no historical population return since (Benson, Hornbecker, & Mckiernan, 2011, p. 11). Compared to an average of 100-200 Atlantic salmon in the Connecticut River in 1967, there were only about 75 salmon that returned in 2009 (Benson, Hornbecker, & Mckiernan, 2011, p. 12).

Atlantic salmon are important for supporting the ecology of the Connecticut River system and surrounding habitats. Developing fry and parr salmon offer ecological benefits to the Connecticut River system by feeding on and controlling populations of aquatic invertebrate larvae within the river, such as mayfly, stonefly, and caddis (Hendry & Cragg-Hine, 2003, p. 7). In addition, Atlantic salmon that spawn in the Northeast American river systems are also crucial to sustaining the Atlantic Ocean salmon population at large. Not only do they offer food for other species surrounding the Connecticut River, they also function as enormous pumps that push vast amounts of marine nutrients from the ocean to the rivers inland (Rahr, G., 2017). These nutrients are incorporated into food webs in rivers and surrounding landscapes by a host of over 50 species of mammals, birds, and other fish that forage on salmon eggs, juveniles, and adult salmon (Rahr, G., 2017). In Alaska, spawning salmon contribute up to 25% of the nitrogen in the foliage of trees (Rahr, G., 2017). With this information, we can infer that Atlantic salmon populations have the ability to contribute increased percentages of nitrogen to foliage surrounding the Connecticut River system.

A sustainable salmon population also offers economic advantages to the communities surrounding the Connecticut River system. High numbers of salmon bring an increase in public participation in fishing clubs like the Fish Creek Atlantic Salmon Club (Carey, 2017). With increased participation in fishing clubs and throughout fishing season, professional and recreational fishers spend a substantial amount of money on fishing trips. Aside from joining fishing clubs, in 2014, marine anglers in the US spent $4.9 billion on fishing trips and $28 billion on fishing equipment (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], 2017). In 2006, there were about 2.8 million recreational anglers in the New England region who took 9.7 million fishing trips (NOAA, 2006, p. 51). These anglers, in total, spent $438 million on recreational fishing trips and $1.44 billion on fishing-related equipment (NOAA, 2006, p. 51).  Retired Senator Elizabeth Hubley claims that the value of wild Atlantic salmon was once $255 million and the value to the surrounding areas in the gross domestic product was about $150 million (Atlantic Salmon Federation [ASF], 2017: Hubley, 2017). Increased Atlantic salmon populations also supported 3,872 full-time equivalent job in 2010, and about 10,500 seasonal jobs depend on wild Atlantic salmon (ASF, 2017; Hubley, 2017). These jobs include salmon angling and related tourism, food services, and accommodation sectors in the area (ASF, 2011, p. 54).

New England communities were built along banks of rivers so dams have been a central component since the beginning to provide water for irrigation, power generation, industrial operations, and provide clean drinking water. Specifically, the Connecticut River remains among the most extensively dammed rivers in the nation with 756 dams in place following the floods of 1932 and 1955 (American Rivers, 2017; & Benson, Hornbecker, & Mckiernan, 2011, p. 2 & 3). Two of the first dams on the Connecticut River system that prevent Atlantic salmon from migrating into tributaries are the Leesville Dam on the Salmon River and the Rainbow Dam on the Farmington River (Benson, Hornbecker, & Mckiernan, 2011, p. 20 & 22). The Leesville Dam was built in 1900 and is used for recreational purposes today. The second dam on the Connecticut River, the Rainbow Dam, was the first dam on the Farmington River, which is the largest tributary of the Connecticut River. This river is supposed to provide access to 52 miles of historic spawning habitat (Benson, Hornbecker, & Mckiernan, 2011, p. 22).

Now, Atlantic salmon face the biggest obstacle, figuratively and literally, they have ever encountered before. The Leesville and Rainbow dams are preventing Atlantic salmon from entering their respective tributaries and spawning each season. Dams are preventing upstream salmon passage, reducing water quality, altering substrate within the river, and alter flow regime of the river.

Dams placed on the Connecticut are the primary reason for the lack of returning Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River system. Dams fragment habitat and ultimately prevent upstream salmon migration, which not only limits their ability to access spawning habitats, but also limits their ability to seek out essential food resources, and return downstream to the ocean (American Rivers, 2017). As a result, major dams on the in the Connecticut River watershed have blocked fish passage and caused significant decreases in Atlantic salmon migration and spawning rates (Daley, 2012, p. 1). A fish count was taken in 2010 and only found 1 Atlantic salmon was recorded above the Leesville Dam (Benson, J., Hornbecker, B., & Mckiernan, B., 2011, p. 20). Another fish count was taken above the Rainbow Dam and only showed 4 Atlantic salmon above the dam site (Benson, J., Hornbecker, B., & Mckiernan, B., 2011, p. 22).

Not only do dams physically prevent salmon from migrating upstream to spawn each season, they also slow down water velocities in large reservoirs which can delay salmon migration downstream (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2017). Additionally, dams can block or impede salmon spawning by creating deep pools of water that, in some cases, have inundated important spawning habitat or blocking access to it (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2017).

The water quality of the Connecticut River is very important in order to sustain Atlantic salmon populations because they require very good water quality, including high dissolved oxygen and low nitrates, non-ionized ammonia, and total ammonia content (Hendry & Cragg-Hine, 2003, p. 11). Although Atlantic salmon have a higher tolerance to warm temperatures than other salmon species, warm temperatures can reduce egg survival, stunt growth of fry and smolts, and increase susceptibility to disease (Klamath Resource Information System [KRIS], 2011). The chemical, thermal, and physical changes which flowing water undergoes when it is stilled can seriously contaminate a reservoir and even the water downstream (McCully, 2001). Water released from deep in a reservoir behind a high dam is usually cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, while water from outlets near the top of the reservoir will tend to be warmer than river water year round. Unnatural or inverted patterns of warming or cooling of the river affect the ideal concentration of dissolved oxygen and adversely influences the biological and chemical reactions driven by temperature flux (McCully, 2001).

One experiment was conducted on the Colorado River in Glen Canyon, where pre-dam temperatures were obtained in varied seasons. The pre-dam temperatures varied seasonally from highs of around 27 ºC (80 ºF) to lows near freezing (McCully, 2001).  The maximum temperature of the river water that developing salmon can take is around 27 ºC (80 ºF) (KRIS, 2011). However, the temperatures of the water flowing through the intake of Glen Canyon Dam, 70 meters (230 feet) below the full reservoir level, varied only a couple of degrees around the year (McCully, 2001). The Colorado River is now too cold for the successful reproduction of native fish as far as 400 kilometers (250 miles) below the dam (McCully, 2001). This experiment is transferable to the Leesville and Rainbow dams because they are similar in size to the Glen Canyon Dam, therefore we can infer that both the Leesville and Rainbow dams impede fish populations because of drastic water temperature fluctuations year round.

The dams also stagnate downriver water flow, which is disadvantageous to the salmon because they cannot use the current of the river to guide them to the ocean to continue their life cycle before returning to spawn (American Rivers, 2017). Furthermore, dams that divert water for power also remove water needed for healthy in-stream ecosystems as well as directly affecting dramatic changes in reservoir water level, which can lead drying systems downriver (American Rivers, 2017). Furthermore, flow regime dictates substrate composition, or what makes up the bottom of a river channel. Slower moving water results in a riverbed of fine material, while faster flowing water tends toward a rockier or even bouldered substrate (Claeson, S. M., & Coffin, B., 2016). Research finds Atlantic salmon seem to prefer this rougher substrate, a habitat type that leads to an increase of 80% of individuals in a given area of 70% or more rocky or bouldered, substrate cover in studies of post partial or total dam removal. Researchers hypothesize the rocky substrate mitigates flow speed at greater depths, thereby facilitating salmon passage and providing refuge for salmon eggs and young (Lii-Chang, C. et al., 2008). Thus, a dam’s effect on flow regime and subsequent substrate composition is very detrimental to existing and future generations of Atlantic salmon.

In summary, the implementation of dams on the Connecticut River is harmful to Atlantic salmon populations in more ways than one. Connecticut River dams prevent salmon from migrating properly during their spawning periods. It became such a substantial problem that the National Fish Hatchery System (NFHS) of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stocked Atlantic salmon in the Connecticut River at one point in time. Unfortunately, after poor returns back into the Connecticut River and its tributaries, the NFHA discontinued stocking Atlantic salmon in 2012 (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2017). In addition to impeding salmon migration, dams that were constructed also reduce water quality and alter the flow regime of the river and its tributaries.

Given the evidence dams present a steep hurdle for migratory, anadromous fishes, the natural evolution of the question then becomes; can we somehow mitigate that hurdle without removing the dam itself? Enter an attempt to do just that with the implementation of fishways around a dam. A fishway is a manmade path that allows for fish to safely pass around a dam without affecting the purpose of the dam (hydroelectricity, flood prevention etc.) (Harrison, 2008). There are two main types of fishways used today: fish ladders and fish lifts. A fish ladder is a system in which fish manually swim up and around the impending dam through a series of ascending pools (Edmonds, 2008, p. 1). Among the most common, pool and weir fish ladders utilize the flow of water over the ascending pools to encourage fish to jump up and into the next highest pool (Edmonds, 2008, p. 2). Another basic design called vertical slot fish ladder utilizes a small vertical slot in which the water flows into a pool. The angles of the entrance and exit slots create a holding area in each pool that the fish can rest in before battling the current to get to the next pool (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [FERC], 2005).  A fish lift, however, is a hydraulic lift that automatically carries fish up and over the dam. Fish congregate at the base of the dam where they find the entrance to the fish lift. They then swim through this entrance and congregate in a holding tank at the base of the dam. Once there are enough fish in the holding tank, the tank is lifted to the height of the dam where fish are safely released on the other side (Harrison, 2008; Church, 2016).

One significant flaw with fishways is that they are not consistently effective for all fish species, especially Atlantic salmon. A fish lift put in place at the Holyoke dam on the mainstream of the Connecticut River kept track of how many fish passed through the elevator and their species. In 2010, the dam successfully passed: 164,439 American Shad, 39,782 Sea Lamprey, and only 41 Atlantic salmon (Benson, Hornbecker, & Mckiernan, 2011, p. 29). The Rainbow dam, which blocks a main tributary to the Connecticut River, conducted a study measuring what types of fish utilized its fish ladder. They found that three months after its installation in 2010, the vertical slot fish ladder passed: 548 American Shad, 3,090 Sea Lamprey, and only 4 Atlantic salmon (Benson, Hornbecker, & Mckiernan, 2011, p. 22). This data begs the question, why are some fishways more effective to certain species than others? Well, the answer is a lot more complex than people think. Alex Haro, a fish passage engineer at the S.O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center noted in 2014 that most of the design decisions made about fish ladders overlooked critical information (Kessler, 2014). Since fish ladder technologies developed with little cooperative partnership between engineers and fish biologists (Calles & Greenberg, 2009), attempts at engineering fish passage was often in the form of a one-size-fits-all solution for the sake of cutting costs. Examples of fatal oversights include a failure to calculate for critical variables that create what is referred to as ideal hydraulic conditions, such as speed, directional chop, and the physical and chemical qualities of water affected by a given dam as it relates to a fish species’ size, resilience, and overall passage efficiency (Brown & Limburg et al., 2013). Furthermore, design emphasis favored upstream passage potential, with little regard for returning downstream passage (Calles & Greenberg, 2009). Though even when fishways were designed with a target species in mind, passage was ever more ambitious than successful. Swedish ecological engineers found salmon-specific fish ladders prevented as much as 30% of potential spawning salmon from passing at the first mainstem dam and ultimately leading to an overall decrease of 70% of potential spawning salmon to reach high-quality spawning tributaries (Rivinoja, 2005).

As a way to bring the salmon populations back to the Connecticut River system, we advise the Connecticut state government to remove the Leesville and Rainbow Reservoir dams from the Connecticut River watershed. This solution will allow the restoration of salmon populations in the Connecticut River communities and bring with it economic, recreational, and ecological benefits to the surrounding areas.

In fact, areas that prioritized dam removal for the sake of habitat restoration are quickly witnessing a substantial recovery in both target fisheries and surrounding ecosystems, to include their local salmon species. The 210-foot-high Glines Canyon dam of Washington State was removed in the year 2014, following the removal of the Elwha dam in 2011, collectively reopening 70 miles, or 90%, of high-quality spawning habitat for salmon (Mapes, 2016). These two dams prevented a whole host of river wildlife from upriver passage for over a century, but the local Lower Elwha Klallam Native American tribe persevered and collaborated with state and federal officials to restore the habitat for their culturally important Coho and Chinook salmon (Mapes, 2017). And while the project came with a $325 million price tag, the effort is producing immediate ecological payoffs. Just three days after the Elwha dam removal, Chinook salmon were documented upriver the removal site (Mapes, 2016). The same year, in the 11-mile stretch between the two dams of century-long impossible spawning potential, the Elwha produced 32,000 outgoing juvenile Coho salmon (Mapes, 2016). Now, Chinook and Steelhead salmon numbers are up 350% and 300% respectively, and previously landlocked Sockeye salmon are returning to sea (Mapes, 2016). But the salmon aren’t the only winners in this story, downstream ecosystems have benefited from nutrient connectivity. As well, resulting physical and chemical changes to the river environment post-dam removal are creating more complex, and thus biologically rich, habitat structure for native species such as otter, various crabs, and birds (Mapes, 2016). One study out of Ohio State University evaluating Washington state’s efforts to remove dams concludes that birds with access to rivers hosting salmon, and therefore marine-derived nutrients, increases survival rates up to 11%, encourages multiple broodings per season of up to 20x, and increases the overall likelihood to stay year-round of up to 13x (Crane, 2015).

Destroying two dams in the Connecticut River watershed could come with major negative effects to the local societies. Because the Rainbow dam provides electricity to Hartford, CT, demolition of the dam will come with negative power ratings for the city, but how much of an impact will dam removal make? According to an excel sheet put together by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the Rainbow Dam in Windsor, CT has a capacity of .004 megawatts (MW) (2017). The best performing dam in America, the Grand Coulee Dam on the Washington River, has a capacity of nearly 7,000 MW (National Park Service, 2013). To put this number into perspective, if Hartford replaced 100 of its light bulbs with new energy efficient ones, it would successfully negate the power lost from removing the dam (American Rivers, 2016). Converting to newer energy alternatives in Hartford is a cheaper alternative, and could very easily negate the electricity loss from removing the Rainbow Dam.

The main problem with removing the Leesville dam is the recreational value that it holds. However, those who enjoy the open water will actually find that there is more to do without the dams there. Yes, people who had boats on the water will no longer have the ability to enjoy open waters, but the local area should see an upturn in use of the river. Now that the lake behind the Leesville dam is a river, kayaking and rafting will increase as there is more river length to explore unobscured by a dam. Also, as stated before, with more fish in the river, there is likely to be an increase in recreational fishing as well (American Rivers, 2017)

It is also important to consider the costs associated with maintenance of the dams and cost of demolition. One would think that the owner of the dam stands to lose the most when dam removal is considered, but in reality, this is not the case. In fact, the dam owners often work together with local, state, and federal governments to help get rid of the dam. This is because ownership of a dam also comes with maintenance and safety costs, as well as payments related to fish and wildlife protection (American Rivers, 2016). Costs for dam removal range from thousands to millions of dollars depending on sediment buildup, size of the dam, and complexity of river environment. Grant money and taxpayer money covers most of these payments, with some money coming from private investors (Benson, Hornbecker, & Mckiernan, 2011, p. 34 & 41).

In sum, Atlantic salmon populations will likely never be self-sustaining while hundreds of dams exist in the Connecticut River watershed (American Rivers, 2017). Especially when dams block nearly every tributary that feeds into the Connecticut River. Starting at the bottom of the Connecticut River, with the Rainbow and Leesville dam, we can slowly return natural spawning to the bottom of the river. By removing just two dams we successfully open access to over 70 miles historic spawning habitat (Benson, Hornbecker, & Mckiernan, 2011, p. 29; American Rivers, 2017). Luckily we are in a time where dam removal is picking up support. Out of the 1,150 dams that have been removed in the U.S. since 1912, approximately 850 of them have been in the past 20 years (Kessler, 2014). This upward trend of dam removal will heavily influence natural spawning in the Connecticut, and slowly but surely, those little, orange colored, tapioca balls will return home.


Ava Swiniarski – Pre Veterinary Science

Jonah Hollis – Environmental Conservation Science

Ben Smith – Building and Construction Technology


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Are you herring me? Restoring river herring through dam removal

1 year after a dam removal in CT

In 1965, commercial fishermen topped out at a catch of 65 million pounds of river herring in Maine. They were plentiful then and there was no worry they would ever be any less abundant. However as fishing techniques continued to advance, fishermen in Maine have only been able to catch just over 2 million pounds once since 1993. The population has dwindled down so much that a report on September 4, 2017, claims the federal government is reviewing the proposal for river herring to go under the Endangered Species Act (Whittle 2017). Once a bountiful fish, now on the brink of endangerment. Why? One of the causes is due to extreme damming, erupting 14,000 new dams in New England (Hall et al., 2012).

River herring are relatively small fish that rely on coastal rivers to spawn. They are anadromous fish, which means that they migrate between freshwater and saltwater during breeding portions of their life cycle. Once river herring swim up rivers, they spawn in streams and ponds in the spring. Their young will then return to the ocean in the fall. River herring need ponds, lakes, and slow moving small streams in order to spawn (Hall et al., 2012; Hall et al., 2010). The term river herring includes several species of fish such as alewives, blueback herring, and American shad. They are often collectively referred to as river herring because they share very similar biological characteristics. River herring are a key member of the food chain for many commercially and ecologically important species. They feed on lower, smaller organisms which allows them to potentially exist in large numbers (Hall et al., 2012). Without access to key coastal rivers, the adults have no place to spawn and entire watersheds lose these valuable fish. River herring are important members of many New England watersheds and coastal zones.

River herring numbers have shown a massive decline over the course of the colonization of New England (Hall et al., 2012). Since the 1600s, yearly available river herring biomass has decreased by 30 million kg, which is roughly 11.8 billion fish lost from potential yearly harvest (Hall et al., 2015). This means that river herring are not reproducing nearly as much as they used to. River herring were once vastly abundant fish that provided substantial amounts of nutrients to freshwater and marine ecosystems alike. New England has a history of fishing and Native Americans once harvested the seemingly unlimited bounty of fish. Even though New England river herring used to occur in the billions, their numbers quickly fell as their breeding grounds were cut off by dams.

River herring are a potential prey item for a variety of predatory fish, such as cod, striped bass, and many others (Hall et al., 2012; Willis et al., 2017). River herring are important prey items because they contain more nutrients than many other invertebrates. River herring have higher levels of proteins and lipids, making them a higher quality prey item for predatory fish (Willis et al., 2017). Due to restoration efforts striped bass numbers have risen, causing them to expend more pressure on other valuable species such as juvenile Atlantic salmon (Hall et al., 2012, Hall et al., 2010). This particular case is a result of a predator being restored without the presence of its typical prey item, causing striped bass to eat other unintended fish. Predator fish that eat river herring are major contributors to the local coastal economies of New England. In three major fishing communities in New England: New Bedford, MA, Gloucester, MA, and Portland, ME, caught ground fish that eat river herring were worth a total of  $48.7 million and employed 347 boats from large to small in 2016. These numbers represent only a fraction of the overall fishing industry in New England that are affected by river herring and show that there is a large economy that could benefit from their restoration. There is also a mussel, known as the alewife mussel, that depends on alewives to complete its life cycle. Following a trend in river herring restoration in 1985, alewife mussels experienced improved abundance and range expansion (Hall et al., 2012). This data clearly displays the importance of river herring in freshwater and marine ecosystems. By protecting river herring, we are indirectly helping numerous other organisms that are important to the New England economy.

With the importance of river herring in mind, the issue of dams arise. Dams have been constructed in waterways in the northeastern U.S. since the arrival of European colonists in the seventeenth century. Records dating back to the 1600s have proven that dams have significant impacts on watershed ecosystems. The impacts of damming include, but are not limited to: loss of habitat, stream alterations, and changes in water flow and temperature. These impacts can have serious implications for anadromous fish that inhabit dammed coastal waterways in New England, such as river herring. Dams can often block access to key spawning grounds for river herring. These physical barriers, unless modified with a fish ladder or passage, are almost always impassible and prevent river herring from spawning upstream of these areas. There are over 14,000 dams in New England alone that have caused virtually every watershed in the region to be affected by dams (Hall et al., 2012, Hall et al., 2010). Dams disrupt the flow of water and sediment to downstream portions of rivers, creating a poor habitat for several fish species (Hogg et al., 2015). Dams can also cause water temperature to increase, making much of the watershed uninhabitable for some fish, as well as disrupting migration patterns of river herring (Kornis et al., 2015). River herring are important spring and fall prey for predator fish and when increasingly warmer rivers disrupt these seasonal migration patterns, predator fish are adversely affected. From these observations, it can be inferred that dams have considerable, negative impacts on river herring and New England watersheds as a whole.

For centuries, dams have impeded river herring from crossing the boundary between freshwater and ocean water. Since river herring are anadromous, it is imperative that they have access to both freshwater and saltwater to complete spawning. When passage from the waterway to the ocean is inhibited, river herring experience a great loss of accessible habitat, causing detrimental shifts in their ability to thrive. From 1634 to 1850, significant reductions in anadromous spawning habitat, due to dam construction on tributaries and small watersheds, reduced river herring lake habitat in Maine by 95% (Hall, Jordaan, Fox, et al., 2010). Construction of large dams on primary river heads resulted in a virtually complete loss of available habitat by the 1860s (Hall et al., 2010). Such extensive habitat loss led to the severe decline of river herring, putting them on the brink of endangerment and giving them their current classification as a species of concern.

It is understood that of the 14,000 dams in New England, the vast majority of them have historical and personal values associated with local residents. As a result, there has not been a single dam removal project in New England without some type of opposing group (Sneddon et al., 2017, Fox et al., 2016). Opposing groups include local historical societies, residents with connections to local dams, and residents with specific views on the natural state of their watersheds. Dam removal projects such as the Warren Dam, East Burke Dam, Mill Pond Dam, and the Swanton Dam have been halted after concerted efforts to keep them (Fox et al., 2016). Residents often develop a cultural bond with their dams and resist dam removals due to perceived loss in heritage site (Sneddon et al., 2017, Fox et al., 2016). Fox et al. (2016) quote an example of a grassroots organization member in opposition of the Swift River dam removal in central Massachusetts who said, “If you kill the dam, you kill a part of me.” There is also a disconnect between what scientists believe is the natural state of a stream and what residents believe is the natural state of their watershed (Sneddon et al., 2017, Fox et al., 2016). Instead of viewing dam removal as a method of river restoration, many residents of New England tend to see it as a historical and ecological disturbance.

Local residents living near a dam may feel that the dam contributes to their cultural and ecological systems. Differing ideas about what counts as natural is attributed to three factors: attachment, attractive nature, and rurality (Jørgensen 2017 p.841). An example of contradicting viewpoints takes place in Nanaimo, Canada. There was a proposal to remove the Colliery Dams and the Colliery Dam Preservation Society protested the removal, claiming they would lose “the lakes in this very special park” and it was supposed to be a “legacy for our children, their children and all future generations” and that their rebuttal slideshow only provides a “glimpse into the beauty and uniqueness of a very special place” (Jørgensen 2017 p.847). This further proves that the driving factors of the Colliery Dam Preservation Society is due to their attachment, the attractive nature of this park, and their perception of rurality. In a debate between for and against- removal parties, Charles Thirkill, a fisheries biologist, criticizes those who spoke fondly of the fish in the lakes because they were farm-raised sterile fry, almost as artificial as the Atlantic salmon that are raised in net pens (Jørgensen 2017 p.848). This sparks a realization for those against dam removal and the preservation of the “natural” state of the park because what they were so fond of is really all artificial or man-made.

It is important to understand that all stakeholders have different perceptions of what is natural. As previously mentioned, Jørgensen (2017) explains all the perceptions of what the word natural means, however a man-made physical barrier does not happen without the work of man. Since it is decreasing the abundance of anadromous fish, dams should be removed for the sake of fish populations as well as other ecological benefits. Keeping a park intact is important for the culture of local communities however there are other ways of conserving a park even with the removal of a dam. Parks can be shifted over, it can incorporate the new river, or if a reservoir is drained out, it can be made into walkways, gardens, fields, and so forth.

New England differs from other parts in the country in that it is controlled by mostly private lands, meaning that locals have a strong influence on the decisions made in their town (Sneddon et al., 2017; Fox et al., 2016). As a result dam removal processes begin with long town hall like debates, where all parties voice their particular positions (Sneddon et al., 2017; Fox et al., 2016). In Durham, Vermont, the mill dam is a key feature of the town, its industrial history, a major tourist spot, and even appearing on the town seal. Yet after receiving two letters of deficiency from the state, residents claimed it is “one of the most photographed sites in Vermont and, it could be argued, is an essential part of the single most important resource in the town – it’s beauty,” (Fox et al., 2016, p.98). Despite the state’s suggestion to remove the dam, it still remains standing.Dams can play an important role in the culture of local communities and removing them can be hard for many. Removing dams can create newly revived rivers in which communities can find their own sense of beauty and culture. By embracing the benefits of dam removal and in many cases in cheaper costs than repairing dams, local historians may be able to accept the loss of one resource for the benefit of another.

Dams are historical structures and so the request to remove them may be hard for those who feel a strong connection to the dam. With this, it is important to consider the dangers of keeping an old dam. A case where dams go horribly wrong would be in Johnstown. In the late 1800s, Johnstown was a thriving town located in western Pennsylvania. Just 14 miles away was the South Fork Hunting & Fishing Club. This club restored an abandoned earthen dam and created Lake Conemaugh which was used for sailing and ice boating and was stocked with expensive game fish (Hutcheson 1989). The new dam raised concerns for Daniel Morell, one of Johnstown’s best civic leaders, and so he inspected it to find that this dam was in need of dire attention. He sent numerous letters to the club and the town hall, however they were all dismissed. After several days of heavy rainfall, on May 31, 1889, the dam breached (Hutcheson 1989). 20 million tons of water crashed down onto the town of Johnstown taking trees, railcars, and entire houses in its path leaving 2,200 dead. Chicago Herald’s editorial afterwards was entitled “Manslaughter or Murder?” shining light on South Fork Club’s complete negligence for several warnings of the dam’s breach (Hutcheson 1989). 13% of dams in the US are considered highly hazardous and could cause damage such as in Johnstown (NDSP). This means there are 1,820 dams in New England that could pose significant damage to their communities and may serve as potential clients for removal to avoid these potential disasters.

There are many benefits to dam removal yet these are often not fully understood or superseded by locals desire to keep dams as part of their cultural history. A dam removal in Greenfield, Massachusetts was halted after multiple years of 17 organizations coordinating the project with already $500,000 spent on the removal. Yet there are ways that advocates for dam removal can effectively achieve their goals. In Maine conservation, under the Natural Resources Protection act, advocates can petition to the state to remove a permanent structure if it poses significant harm to a natural resource, especially wetlands and watersheds (MDEP, 2016). This could give states more power to remove dams in Maine that harm their natural resources. Across New England there are many federal and state grants available to remove dams (EOEEA, 2007). In Rhode Island the Pawtuxet Falls dam was removed with the help of the Pawtuxet River Authority and Narragansett Bay Estuary Program that sought funding from a dozen sources, including, R.I. Saltwater Anglers Association, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (NRCSRI, 2011). These can allow conservation commissioners independent funding that is not depend on local town support. In the cases where dams are need of repairs were the cost is too high for the town to pay then conservation commissioners can pay for their removal.  There are 50 dams in New England currently under review for removal and as dams age this number will slowly increase (Fox et al. 2016). To Truly restore river herring their spawning habitat needs to be restored and this can happen by removing dams. By targeting dams with no economic benefits that are in need of costly repairs, a precedent can be set for slowly removing the many dams of New England and restoring river herring habitat.

The removal of the Edwards dam on the Kennebec River in Maine highlight the importance of dam removal for river herring (Hall et al. 2012, Robbins and Lewis, 2008). The Kennebec River is one of Maine’s largest river system and covers a full 132 miles. It provided an ample supply of anadromous fish until the Edwards Dam was constructed. This resulted in an immediate loss of 17 miles of spawning habitat for river herring (Robbins and Lewis 2008). After the removal of Edward’s Dam, four Atlantic Salmon in the first time in 162 years have finally reached the upper Kennebec River. From there, the amount of anadromous fish re-entering the Kennebec have continued to increase (Robbins and Lewis 2008). An ex post survey on the economic effects, it was concluded that more anglers have come to fish at the restored fishery and are willing to pay more for better angling opportunities since the removal of the Edward’s Dam (Robbins and Lewis 2008).

Removing dams have economic benefits to the surrounding area. Many cases such as Edwards Dam in Maine and Whittenton Pond Dam in Massachusetts, prove that their repairing outlived dams costs more than removing them. Not only is removing a dam more cost efficient, it also brings more jobs and revenue from the improvement of recreational fishing and activities.

Edward’s Dam is a prime example of a successful removal with economic benefits. As mentioned before, many residents in the surrounding area had ties to this dam and the park it was associated with. Alternatives were considered to improve the life cycle of anadromous fish and so to install fish passages it would cost $14.9 million. The cost to just remove the dam would be four million less at $10.9 million (FERC 1997). Edward’s Dam was thus removed and by doing so, they generated $397,000 -$2.7 million in new income, amounting to benefits totaling $4.9 million to $61.2 million over 30 years (Industrial Economics 2012). As well as generating vast income, another dam removal case proved to prevent a major financial loss.

Whittenton Pond Dam in Mill River, Massachusetts was beyond repair and was at risk for a catastrophic breach. This was a 10-foot high and 120-foot wide wood and concrete structure built in 1832 to power a textile mill and when the mill was shut down, the dam was no longer maintained (Headwaters Economics 2016). Removing the dam would have four benefits: cost effectiveness, avoided emergency response cost, protection of vulnerable species, and increased property values. The cost of removing the dam was $447,000 whereas to rebuilding it estimated to be $1.9 million, and options to repair the dam with a fish ladder or bypass would cost even more than rebuilding it (MDFG 2015). The dam was later removed in 2013, preventing $1.5 million in emergency response expenses if the dam was left for a catastrophic breach to occur. With these figures in mind, it is apparent that removing the Whittenton Pond Dam is the most cost effective option. Thus the dam was removed. This opened up 30 miles of river habitat to vulnerable fish species so that they can spawn, and have nutrients and minerals evenly distributed to previously blocked off areas (MDFG 2015). The removal of the dam is expected to increase property values upstream and downstream of the dam site, lifting the economy of the town (Lewis, Bohlen, and Wilson 2008).

Dam removal is a successful method for restoring river herring because they can rapidly colonize new areas (Hogg et al., 2015, Hall et al., 2012). Hogg et al. (2015) showed in their study that alewives colonized the above dam portion of the studied river within two years. This river had been cut off to those river herring for over a century (Hogg et al., 2015). Hall et al. (2012) claims river herring are ideal for restoration because of their high reproduction rate, allowing them to proliferate rapidly. Hall et al. (2012) also claims that river herring have a rate of straying, meaning that they visit other streams to spawn. This means that a healthy population can rapidly spread to other areas and colonize them. If broad scale stream restoration was done, then existing populations such as the Damariscotta River population in central Maine, would be able to easily colonize newly formed habitat. This shows that dam removal is an effective way of restoring river herring populations.

New England was once a hub for factories and the production of machined goods. We once needed dammed rivers to more through the industrial revolution but it has been well over a century since New England relied on water power. Even though many residents have become accustom to the status of our watersheds it has had major effects on the quality of our ecosystems. We longer need mills but recreational and commercial fishing has existed in New England for over 400 years and will continue to do so. We once made drastic changes to our environment to suit our need and it is now time to make more drastic changes in order to restore the damages that we have caused. There are many dams in New England that are in hazardous conditions that would be far cheaper to remove. By targeting these degraded dams, trying to convince or suppress locals that are against dam removals, and effectively fund these projects, dam removal can greatly restore New England watersheds. The benefits of removing dams will have noticeable and long last economic and environmental benefits to New Englanders and therefore dam removal should be a real consideration for restoring streams in the Northeast.


Quentin Nichols – Natural Resources Conservation

Jessica Vilensky – Natural Resources Conservation

Suzanna Yeung – Building & Construction Technology



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Lewis, L.Y., Bohlen, C., Wilson, S. (2008). Dams, Dam Removal, and River Restoration: A Hedonic Property Value Analysis. Contemporary Economic Policy. 26( 2): 175-186

Robbins, J.L., Lewis, L.Y. (2008). Demolish it and they will come: Estimating the economic impacts of restoring a recreational fishery. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 44, 6, 1488-1499.

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Creating A solution For Asian Carp

 For hundreds of years, the fishing industry has not only supported millions of Americans livelihood, but has also become an immense avenue of trade and commerce across domestic and foreign borders. Invasive species threaten this avenue and are estimated to cause the United States tens of billions in environmental and economic damage each year they remain in U.S. waters (Pasko & Goldberg, 2014). An invasive species is defined as a non-native species in an ecosystem whose introduction will likely cause environmental harm (National Invasive Species Information Center, 2006). Aquaculturists introduced the invasive Asian carp to the United States in 1970 for the sole purpose of controlling algae blooms in aquaculture ponds. Algae blooms are an increase in algae and green plants, that may carry toxins, due to an excess amount of nutrients in the water that deplete the amount of oxygen resulting in the death of fish (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2017). Since Asian carp feed on algae, aquaculturists believed they were the perfect solution to controlling their algae bloom issue. This worked until 1980, when flooding led to Asian carp (i.e. bighead carp, silver carp, grass carp, and black carp) escaping their aquaculture ponds and spreading into local water bodies, introducing them into the Mississippi River, Ohio River, and some of it tributaries. Once the Asian carp population settled into the surrounding bodies of water, they started to outcompete native fish by appropriating their resources. To resolve the detrimental Asian carp issue, it is essential for humans to fulfill the role of their natural predators by creating a profitable fishing market to reduce their population in U.S. ecosystems.

Asian Carp are an extremely dangerous fish for the ecosystem. The presence of Asian Carp in the Ohio River led to a population crash of Gizzard Shad, a dominant planktivore species (aquatic organisms that feed on plankton such as zooplankton) in the early 1990s (Pyron et al., 2017). Gizzard shad are small fish in the herring family that feed on these planktivore species. The Asian carp consume up to 40% of their body weight in planktivores each day, leading to a decreased amount of  food supply for Gizzard shad, which led to a decrease in their populations (Pyron et al., 2017). A clear over population of carp is present and something must be done. In 1997, fishermen reported catching over 50,000kg of carp compared to the previous catch size of 5,000kg (Chick and Pegg, 2001). Although Asian Carp are only one of 139 species in Lake Erie, they are quickly taking over space and resources, resulting in the native species becoming extinct in those specific areas (Simon et al., 2016). If time continues without a decline in population of Asian carp, it is clear that the native species will continue to decrease. If native fish continue to decrease in the Mississippi River, it will hurt the fisheries and the ecosystem because carp are effectively killing off native species due to competition for resources. The amount of taxpayers money it would take to rebuild the ecosystem is unthinkable. The jobs and money lost will be in the millions. At the end of the day, Asian carp are taking over many of the major U.S. rivers, which can be more devastating than one can imagine.  

In the river economies, commercial fisheries are essential to efforts of reducing the population of Asian carp. U.S. fisheries provide $208 billion in sales, contribute $97 billion to the nations GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and provide 1.6 million people with jobs (NOAA, 2017). To operate a healthy fishery, there must be a balance between predator and prey (Minnesota Sea Grant, 2017).  In  the U. S., Asian carp have very few natural predators, allowing them to out-compete native fish species, resulting in a reduction of those native fish populations (Minnesota Sea Grant, 2017). The decline of native fish populations negatively affects fisheries because it becomes harder and more expensive to raise and sell those fish, resulting in the closing of fisheries (Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries, 2015). To prevent commercial fisheries from shutting down, the demand of Asian carp needs to increase. Only when demand is increased, will the process of lowering carp populations rise.

The best way to control an invasive species is to create a mechanism to prevent further introduction, create systems to monitor and detect new infestations, and to move rapidly to eradicate invaders (National Wildlife Federation, 2017). Once an invasive species establishes itself, it becomes extremely difficult and expensive to control. Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific, and are found invading the east coast of the US, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico (NOAA, 2017). Like Asian carp, Lionfish have very few predators due to the fact that they are non-native to the U.S. However, the U.S. combated the invasive lionfish by distributing permits for their removal to recreational divers (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 2017). Permits to catch lionfish allow one to use spear fishing methods; no permit is required for the removal of lionfish with the use of hook and line (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 2017). After the Lionfish are caught, they are used as a food source for people (Lionfish Hunting, 2017). Eating lionfish is good for the environment because removing them helps reefs and native fish populations recover from environmental pressures, lionfish predation, and overfishing (Lionfish Hunting, 2017). Lionfish and Asian carp are both invasive species in the U.S., and they both became successful by their ability to reproduce rapidly, outcompete native species for food and habitat, and avoid predation (NOAA, 2017). Therefore, we can confidently say that using a solution similar to what was used with Lionfish, will give us the results we are looking for with Asian carp. Asian carp have negative effects on the ecosystems they invade, but by using Lionfish as a base model, we will be able to combat the overpopulation of Asian carp by increased fishing.

Many communities rely on fishing as a source of income and food. Asian carp lack natural predators as a consequence of their rapid reproduction, which results in an absence of natural predation to bring down their population. Fortunately, Asian carp mature rapidly and reach a harvestable size at a young age (Michigan Department of Natural Resources [MDNR], 2017). Commercial fishers and markets can benefit from this rapid population increase of Asian carp because it provides an opportunity to create a market. Since commercial fishers rely on large numbers of fish, the higher the population of Asian carp, the more they are able to catch and sell them. In the U.S., humans are the main predators of Asian carp, resulting in the removal of more than 750,000 kg of bighead carp from the Illinois River over a four year period (Ridgway & Bettoli, 2017, p. 438). Asian carp can create plentiful commercial fishing jobs and increase demand with the establishment of a proper marketing strategy.

To eliminate the over population of Asian carp, we need to create a market that increases the demand of Asian carp. Once the demand of Asian carp increases, hunting pressure will also increase. Private industries are actively developing products and markets that utilize Asian carp in a high volume to keep up with increased fishing (Pasko & Goldberg, 2014). One of the main ways Asian Carp are used after they are caught is in food dishes (Illinois Department of Natural Resources [IDNR], 2017). In addition, Carp are commonly turned into kosher hot dogs, fish jerky and omega-3 oil supplements (Modern Farmer, 2015). The community of Chicago was given an opportunity to sample the healthy and tasty fish free of charge, while teaching them about efforts to protect the Great Lakes from the invasive Asian carp (IDNR, 2017). We aim to eliminate the negative perception of Asian carp through public exposure and outreach to promote it as a quality food item in domestic and international markets.

Asian carp have the potential to invade the Great Lakes if no action is taken towards decreasing their population. Bighead and Silver carp eat 5-40 percent of their body weight each day (Asian Carp Response in the Midwest, 2017). They are filter-feeders, meaning they consume plankton, algae, and other microscopic organisms. Native fish populations rely on the same plankton as their main source of food during their larval stage. If Bighead and Silver carp populations increase they can wipe out the larval population of native fish by striping away their key sources of nourishment at the vulnerable larval stage (New York Invasive Species Information [NYISI], 2011). If Asian carp spread to the Great Lakes, they will negatively affect the $7 billion/year fishing industry by out-competing native fish species for food and habitat.

If Grass carp were to spread into the Great Lakes, they will cause degradation of the water quality and damage to wetland vegetation by consuming aquatic plants (NYISI, 2011). Their foraging disturbs lakes and river bottoms, destroys wetlands, and increases murkiness in the water, making it more difficult for native fish to find food. The destruction and loss of aquatic vegetation also leaves native juvenile fish without proper cover from predators and reduces spawning habitats (Fisheries and Oceans Canada [FOC], 2017).

Once Black carp reach the Great Lakes, they will cause a decline in the native mussel population (Michigan Invasive Species [MIS], 2017). Black carp consume native mussels and snails posing an immediate threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem (MIS, 2017). Many of the native mussels are already considered an endangered species and the introduction of Black carp would only make it worse (MIS, 2017). A severe decline in the mussel population would be a huge problem for the Great Lakes. The decline of mussels will negatively affect the water quality because mussels act as biological filters that keep the water clean and healthy (State Of The Great Lakes, 2005). Mussels are also eaten by other animals, such as fish, otters, and birds. The decline of mussels in the Great Lakes mean less food for its predators, potentially resulting in a decline in those animals as well (State Of The Great Lakes, 2005). Although mussels may seem to be a insignificant animals, they are extremely important to the Great Lake’s ecosystem in many ways (State Of The Great Lakes, 2005). The decline in mussel population would result in a decline in water quality (mussels are filter feeders), as well as a decline in other native species’ populations who already depend on them for food (State Of The Great Lakes, 2005).

While the market for Asian carp is strong internationally, there has been some resistance in the U.S. due to the fact that Asian carp are looked at negatively as bottom feeders by society (Varble and Secchi, 2013). One way that markets have started to overcome this resistance is by simply referring to Asian carp as “silverfin”. The University of Arkansas conducted a blind taste test between canned tuna, salmon, and carp, this resulted in canned carp being rated better than both tuna and salmon (Varble and Secchi, 2013). This supports the theory that most of the resistants in the U.S. is due to the fact that society views Asian carp negatively (Varble and Secchi, 2013). If Asian carp markets start referring to them as “silverfin” there could be less resistance to the consumption of Asian carp because it would look  more appealing to the public (Varble and Secchi, 2013). Other countries have utilized the fact that Asian carp reproduce with large amounts of eggs as another avenue of profit (Varble and Secchi, 2013). The collection of carp eggs has become a growing part of the caviar market but has yet to be utilized in the U.S. (Varble and Secchi, 2013).

The market price of Asian carp is very low because of its current abundance in U.S. waterways (Varble and Secchi, 2013). People believe that the quality of meat Asian carp provides is low because the price to purchase it is also low (Varble & Secchi, 2013). If communities are made aware of the quality and palatability of Asian carp, the demand for them would increase in local markets (Varble & Secchi, 2013). Many communities pride themselves on local food production and consumption, which could be a valuable asset in marketing the carp. Local production of Asian carp can be paired with the negative environmental impacts they cause to help increase consumption of Asian carp in communities surrounding areas inhabited by Asian carp (Varble & Secchi, 2013).

The local and commercial fishing industries are an extremely important part of the United States environmental and economic well-being. Invasive Asian Carp are a key factor to a massive native fish decline in the Mississippi River (Asian Carp Response in the Midwest, 2017). Without fish, people would lose not only a food source, but a source of income and a way to keep rivers and lakes clean. Asian carp are a type of fish that are very good at hunting prey and can reproduce quickly, making it essential to create a population decline in order to protect the natural ecosystem. Creating a consumer market for carp will not only solve the problem of overpopulation, it will also be beneficial for our economy and our environment. As of recently, various fisheries all over the country have suffered due to these carp spreading into more and more waterways (NOAA, 2017). Since fisheries are a billion dollar industry, Asian carp are essentially creating an economic problem (NOAA, 2017). To reduce the current population, fishermen first need to fish out a majority of the carp, which they will then sell to local businesses and vendors. Once the fish is purchased by these businesses and vendors, they can sell the fish in the public market, making two branches of this economic sector profit, therefore boosting the economy. In turn, the Carp population due to increased demand will eventually become extremely low, allowing the native fish populations to become established once again. The native fish could then start to rebalance the natural food web again, keeping the rivers healthy.  If Asian carp are only minimally hunted, there is serious risk of the health of all native species in the Mississippi river as well as the river itself. Asian Carp are clearly a very successful yet detrimental, invasive species to the United States. However, their success may lead to their demise. If we can create a high demand market for carp, utilizing humans as their natural predator, we can restore the river environments that have been harmed, while creating jobs and food for people.


Tiffany Vera Tudela- Natural Resource Conservation

James Sullivan- Natural Resource Conservation

Shannon Gregoire- Animal science

Dylan Osgood- Building Construction Technology



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