Posts Tagged ‘Virginia Institute of Marine Science’

Chesapeake Bay Invasive Catfish Research

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Initially introduced for sportfishing in several Virginia tributaries, blue and flathead catfish are considered invasive in the Chesapeake Bay. Since their introduction, their range and population have increased dramatically. Blue and flathead catfish are now top predators in several river systems of the Chesapeake Bay.

In order to learn more about how these fish may be affecting the Bay, the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office has funded several studies to take a closer look at the biology and feeding habits of these fish.

Completed Projects:

A project conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University researched what kinds—and how much—prey blue and flathead catfish consume, and how that may change throughout the year. The VCU researchers found that these catfish may contribute to substantial losses of key Bay fishery species including white perch, menhaden, and blue crabs. The researchers also developed recommendations on how the effects of invasive catfish might be mitigated, including the experimental use of electrofishing to increase commercial harvest.

Researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) focused on whether contaminant burdens in blue catfish could pose a human health risk if people eat these fish. Like other larger fish that live for a relatively long time, blue catfish may “bioaccumulate” mercury and other contaminants to such levels that cause human health concerns. The VIMS researchers explored how much of these contaminants blue catfish bioaccumulated in the Potomac, Rappahannock, and James Rivers. The research found that contaminant levels in fish under 32 inches are under current consumption advisory levels.

Another VIMS research team quantified the growth of individual blue catfish by tracking the length of fish at different ages and how much fish of a given length weighed. Fish collected and measured in the Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James Rivers had slightly different growth characteristics—but overall, they grew to be impressively long and heavy fish. The fish that were measured sometimes reached 13 inches by their fifth year and nearly 40 inches by their 17th or 18th year. Better understanding these rapid growth rates will help fishery managers asses and identify potential impacts blue and flathead catfish could have on the ecosystem as these fish quickly approach large sizes and apex predator status.

Projects under way:

VIMS research is estimating the population numbers of blue catfish in the James River, as well as their survival rates. They are doing this by tagging blue catfish and working with a waterman to track them when they are recaptured.

Researchers at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center are investigating how blue catfish fit into the Chesapeake Bay’s food web, including cataloging undigested fish prey items from blue catfish stomachs. Work by SERC scientists to date has been conducted in the Patuxent, Nanticoke, Sassafras Rivers and Northeast/Swan Creek/Susquehanna Flats.

Results from this research are being used by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team, which brings together resource managers and other experts from around the watershed to discuss topics related to fishery management in the context of the most up-to-date science.

source: NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office

Virginia Institute of Marine Science Bay Grass Survey Shows Improvements

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

The latest Virginia Institute of Marine Science Bay Grass Survey shows that the abundance of underwater grasses in Chesapeake Bay increased by 18 percent last year, from 64,917 acres in 2007 to 76,861 acres in 2008.

This is the fourth largest total acreage of bay grasses recorded since the bay-wide survey began in 1984. Bay grasses increased in abundance in several areas.

Maryland waters had a 12% increase, the second highest level seen in Maryland waters since the Virginia Institute of Marine Science began its annual bay grass survey in 1984. The 12 percent increase in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers brings the State to 41 percent of its bay grass restoration goal. Maryland’s bay grasses totaled 47,286 acres in 2009, up from 42,237 acres in 2008.

In addition to increased bay grasses, the Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab population has increased substantially for the second straight year. The latest winter dredge survey shows a 60% increase in Maryland’s crab population.

“Because bay grasses are sensitive to even small changes in water pollution, they serve as a key indicator of Chesapeake Bay health,” explained Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin. “Healthy bay grass beds protect shorelines from erosion, produce oxygen and filter polluted water.”

Grasses on the Susquehanna Flats, near Havre de Grace, have quadrupled since the early 1990s, and a single bed now covers approximately 12.5 square miles, the largest in the Bay. Other improved areas include the upper Potomac River, from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge south to Mattawoman Creek.

Bay grasses in the middle section of the Chesapeake Bay, the area south of the Bay Bridge to the Virginia state line, also increased including areas located on the lower Eastern Shore and in Tangier Sound near Smith Island.

Growth of eelgrass, along with widgeon grass, accounted for about 60 percent of the baywide increase. These notable gains include 1,337-acres (11%) in the Tangier-Smith Island region, 1,092-acres (9%) in the eastern lower Chesapeake Bay and 1,794-acres (29%) in Mobjack Bay. Widgeon grass showed a very strong resurgence in the 2,985-acre increase (24%) in the Honga River.

While healthy bay grasses expanded in the upper Chesapeake Bay and on the Eastern Shore, several rivers on the middle Western Shore experienced bay grass declines.

The Magothy River, near Annapolis, and Piscataway Creek, in the upper Potomac River, both lost over half of their grasses in 2009. Bay scientists are working to understand the causes of these declines in order to better target restoration efforts in these rivers.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science 2008 Art Show

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

A benefit will be held at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), Gloucester Campus, on April 25 and 26. “Scenes From the Seas” is the 10th annual art show and auction held at VIMS. This year’s event will help fund research concerning damage from coastal storms, bycatch issues with the white marlin fishery, mercury-tainted seafood, and interactions between pollution, eel grass and fishing.

The featured artist for this event is Dr. Guy Harvey. Dr. Harvey is back by popular demand. He was here for this event in 2006 and helped to raise more than $60,000 for VIMS programs. Guy Harvey is one of the most popular marine artist of all time. He is also an author, photographer, angler, conservationist, television show host, and scientist. Dr. Harvey spends much time promoting fisheries research and conservation.

This two evening event begins with a public art show, book signing, and autograph session with Dr. Harvey on Friday, April 25, at 6:30 pm in Chesapeake Bay Hall, including light hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. At 7:30 pm, the audience will move to Waterman’s Hall, where Dr. Harvey will narrate several of his dramatic billfish films. His footage of billfish feeding in the wild is amazing. If you are an angler, you will now know what is happening the next time you drop back to a billfish. There is no cost to attend this evening. There will be a large variety of Guy Harvey’s art to view and to purchase. There will be both originals and prints available. Dr. Harvey has painted an original just for this event which features a striped bass, white marlin, bluefish, and yellowfin tuna. This artwork has also been made into a special Guy Harvey/VIMS t-shirt. Almost everyone who appreciates marine life has a collection of Guy Harvey shirts. This is one that you will not be able to get anywhere else.

The event resumes on Saturday, April 26 at 6:30pm in Chesapeake Bay Hall. Guy Harvey’s art show will continue and both silent and live auctions will be conducted. This ticketed event ($100 per person) will feature a silent auction of items from regional artists and craftsmen, festive cuisine and a hosted bar, and a live auction with the original Harvey painting along with other art, nautical, and maritime items. mailto:lcphip@vims.eduIn addition to the auctions, a limited edition Turner Sculpture, “River Otters” has been donated http://www.turnersculpture.com/gallery/317.htm . This bronze sculpture will be available through a raffle.

There will be many items available for silent auction. Some of the live auction items include:

Guy Harvey Original Framed Watercolor, “A Tribute to VIMS”

Bass Pro Outfitted Fishing Kayak

Condo for One Week at Pueblo Real in Costa Rica

Condo for One Week at Tapatio Cliffs in Phoenix, Arizona

Two Tickets to a Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees Baseball Game with Hotel

“Blue Fury” Kent Ulberg Sculpture
Offshore Fishing Trip for Five









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