Friday, May 17, 2013

Volunteer Helps Fish Have Sex

Slim pickins in the Chesapeake Bay News tonight; the only thing that wasn't old, boring or redundant was this vaguely pornographic depiction of a fish sex therapist:
...The Choptank watershed is home to one of the state’s more productive herring fisheries, and biologists with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are working to ensure healthy populations can thrive in other Maryland rivers. When Jim Thompson from Maryland DNR asked if I wanted to come help collect herring eggs that would be used in future stocking efforts on the Patapsco, how could I say no?

Standing along the banks of the Choptank, we cast about on the hunt for the elusive female herring whose eggs were ripe (the window can be incredibly narrow). We fished this 25-foot section of the river for more than three hours and only found two females who were ready to spawn. Luckily, each female herring can carry between 20,000 and 40,000 eggs. The male herring were plentiful.

What came next was far more ritualistic (even spiritual) than the laboratory exercise I imagined. Seated on nearby rocks and lit by headlights on the state truck, both roe and sperm were milked from the few herring collected and combined in a stainless steel vessel. Chuck Spence with Maryland DNR and, rumor has it, responsible for the millions of herring fry stirred this strange mixture with a turkey feather while river water and a special powder were added. This process continued until only the fertilized eggs remained in the river water. These were moved to their new nursery (aka a sealed plastic bag and cooler-type contraption) and immediately driven by a third member of the team to their temporary home at one of the state hatcheries.

As I watched the truck speed away, I couldn’t help but feel even more alive. I silently bid these new little herring farewell and promised to keep fighting to make their new home in the Patapsco River as hospitable as possible.
I think this woman  missed her calling writing for an NGO.

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