Saturday, December 29, 2018

Fluvial Fishes Lab Year in Review

New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”  Mark Twain
Many of my good intentions were realized in 2018.  The year ended with the delivery of the completed layout for the Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Virginia to Johns Hopkins University Press.  Six coauthors (Paul E. Bugas, Jr., Corbin D. Hilling, Val Kells, Michael J. Pinder, Derek A. Wheaton, and Donald J. Orth) developed this up-to-date field guide to all the freshwater fishes of Virginia.  The guide contains in introduction to the study of Virginia's freshwater fishes, a key to the families, 175 color illustrations, 29 color photos, illustrations of diagnostic characteristics, range maps, descriptions of the 225 species of freshwater fishes, glossary, and index.  If you need to know what fish is also called the "Gaspergou," you can find the answer in this guide.  Many fish facts are included in the species accounts and species newly discovered are included.   Other publications are listed below along with several favorite blog posts and photos from Ichthyology class.

Poster presentation on Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Virginia.  Click for link.
Publications for 2018

Bugas, P.E., Jr., C.D. Hilling, V. Kells, M.J. Pinder, D.A. Wheaton, and D.J. Orth. In press. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Virginia. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.  expected Sept. 2019.

Carey, C.S., D.J. Orth, and V. Emrick. 2018. Biological Surveys for Fries Hydroelectric Project in the upper New River, Grayson County, Virginia. Final Report to TRC Solutions, Reston, Virginia.  Conservation Management Institute, Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, College of Natural Resources and Environment, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VTCMI-04-2018.  65 pp. 

Fries Dam, Fries, Virginia, at low flow.  Photo by D.J. Orth.
Dickinson, B.D., S.L. McMullin, D.J. Orth, and J.R. Copeland. 2018. Trotline catch rates vary by hook and bait type in the New River, Virginia. Journal of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.  5:46-52.
Hilling, C.D., S.L.Wolfe, J.R. Copeland, D.J. Orth, E. M. Hallerman. 2018.   Occurrence of two non-indigenous catostomid fishes in the New River, Virginia. Northeastern Naturalist 25(2):215-221.  DOI: 10.1656/045.025.0204     Link to DNA Barcoding video.

Hilling, C.D., A.J. Bunch, R.S. Greenlee, D.J. Orth and Y. Jiao.  2018. Natural mortality and size structure of introduced Blue Catfish in Virginia tidal rivers. Journal of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 5:30-38.

Moore, M.J., and D.J. Orth. 2018. Stories worth sharing.  Fisheries  43(12):575-576.   Link to Michael J. Moore video story My Dog Ate My Lab Notebook. 

Moore, M.J., D.J. Orth, and E.M. Hallerman. 2018. Multi-metric conservation assessment for the imperiled Clinch Dace. Southeastern Fishes Council Proceedings 58:31-56.

Orth, D.J.  2018.  Social media may empower fisheries students via learning networks.  Fisheries  43(3):130-138.

Orth, D. 2018. Learning lessons about Lampreys.  American Currents 43(3):11-16.

Orth, D.J. In press.  Socrates opens a Pandora’s box of Northern Snakehead issues. Pages 000-000 in D. Chapman and J. Odenkirk, editors.  First International Snakehead Symposium, American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.

Schmitt, J.D., B.K. Peoples, L. Castello, and D.J. Orth. 2018. Feeding ecology of generalist consumers: a case study of invasive blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, USA. Environmental Biology of Fishes DOI: 10.1007/s10641-018-0783-6

Stang, S.A., C.D. Hilling, and D.J. Orth. In press.  Lessons learned from 35 years of students organizing the Mudbass Classic. Fisheries  44

Outreach for 2018 

Joseph Schmitt defended his dissertation and moved on to a position as Fisheries Research Biologist with the USGS investigating Lake Erie fisheries.  Corbin Hilling was awarded a 2-year Virginia Sea Grant Fellowship to further his studies of the nonnative Blue Catfish in tidal rivers.    See news release.
Corbin Hilling, doctoral student, received Virginia Sea Grant Fellowship in 2018.
There are new writings and activities on the outreach front. Stories about the non-native catfish appear regularly in a blog, managed by PhD student, Corbin Hilling, and Joseph Schmitt, PhD.  The most recent was an interview with Captain John a recreational fishing guide for Blue Catfish on the James River.  See ChesapeakeCatfish.   Corbin Hilling recently taught a group of young 4-H students about fishes (see below) and Don Orth taught Master Naturalists in the Southwest Piedmont chapter about the fishes of Virginia.   With Dan Goetz and Aaron Bunch of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, we organized and presented a Continuing Education session on Field Sampling Design and Statistical Power. 
My lab coat was decorated with Gyotaku by a group of young students. Photo by D.J. Orth.
Illustration of the Atlantic cutlassfish, or ribbonfish, Trichiurus lepturus (above) and student's model (below).  Photo by Corbin Hilling. 
Don Orth after presenting paper at Virginia Chapter AFS meeting in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Photo by Valerie Orth
The #25daysofFishmas hashtag on Twitter celebrated Great Lakes Fishes, thanks to Katie O'Reilly, who organized daily tweets since 2016. The Virginia Tech Ichthyology Facebook group joined in for 2018.  You may follow the fishes highlighted for each of the 25 days of Fishmas, starting with the Mahi Mahi.   

Photos from Ichthyology 2018 

Species of Petromyzontidae in Virginia.  Photo and illustrations by Hanna Infanti.
Students dissect a Walleye collected from New River. Photo by D.J. Orth.
Learning to distinguish the Moxostoma is given more than lip service.  Photo by Taylor Comer

Pharyngeal arch removed from a minnow. Photo by Jared Rodenas.
Fish memes help us remember scientific names. Photo by D.J. Orth.
Cheers to 2019!  If interested, follow our blog,  join Virginia Tech Ichthyology on Facebook and/or follow Fluvial Fishes Lab on Twitter @donaldorth

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Are Your Sardines Seabird Safe? by Don Orth

Seabirds are the most threatened group of birds (IUCN 2018). Major threats relate to fisheries bycatch and competition. Fishing occurs on more than 55% of ocean area and has a spatial extent more than four times that of agriculture (Kroodsma et al. 2018). This fisheries footprint estimate is made possible by the automatic identification system required on marine vessels for tracking.  Long line (45%), purse seines (17%), and trawls (9.4%) are the three most widespread forms of ocean fishing. Impacts of fishing go well beyond the species targeted for harvest. Bycatch effects are obvious, but industrial fisheries are also implicated in starving seabirds (Grémillet et al. 2016). Recent evidence shows that fisheries compete with seabirds by taking the same fishes, a limited resource, and the take has fitness consequences for seabirds. There is no such thing as a free lunch, or a tuna sandwich that does not have seabird consequences.  
Global footprint of fishing coverage.  From Kroodsma et al. (2018).
Gremillett et al (2018) reconstructed global fisheries catches since 1970 to compare with seabird diets. Global harvesting reduced abundance of fish eaten by many seabirds and competition was identified in 48% of all areas, notably the Southern Ocean, Asian shelves, Mediterranean Sea, Norwegian Sea, and Californian coast.  The decrease primarily occurred in the Southern Ocean and in the North Atlantic and was most marked in diving petrels (−66%), terns (−48%), and frigatebirds (−47%).

Competition with fisheries significantly constrains a vanishing seabird community. from Grémillett et al. 2018.

Calls for changes in fisheries management goals began over 40 years ago. Larkin wrote this epitaph for the Maximum Sustained Yield concept (MSY) in 1976 and  OSY, or optimum sustained yield, was the logical successor.  OSY is the deliberate melding of social, economic and biological benefits. Among these many benefits, we seek a unique management goal exists for each fishery that balances the many conflicting goals.  One of the benefits relates to seabirds.  And herein lies the challenge. 


Here lies the concept, MSY.
It advocated yields too high,
And didn’t spell out how to slice the pie.
We bury it with the best of wishes,
Especially on behalf of fishes.
We don’t know yet what will take its place,
But hope it’s as good for the human race.


M.S.Y. is still alive and kicking.  However, major databases such as the Data Seabird Information Network, launched by the World Seabird Union, and Tracking Ocean Wanderers database, maintained by BirdLife International can assist in detecting decreasing seabird population trends. We need to get beyond observations, such as this Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea) eating a sandeel and apply ecosystem-based fisheries management models that consider data on abundance of non-target ecosystem components, including pinnipeds, orcas, seagrasses, cownose rays, whales, cephalopods, and more (Pikitch et al. 2014).  In the mid-Atlantic region we might manage Atlantic Menhaden harvests and protect some menhaden for consumption by Striped Bass, Humpback Whales, and Bluefin Tuna. Black Skimmer, which have declined, also eat Atlantic Menhaden (Gordon et al. 2000) - but how much?  However, the trophic models used for these analyses (Pikitch et al. 2014) make assumptions that need to be tested. Evidence that harvesting forage species competes with other top predators in well-studied US fisheries is equivocal (Hilborn et al. 2017).  
Black-footed Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) pair hunting sardines, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Peter Verhoog.
Globally, competition with fisheries should be assessed as one of the numerous stressors acting upon the fitness of individual seabirds, and population trajectories (Grémillett et al. 2016; Lescroël et al. 2016).  It won't be easy to do.  To assess seabird-fisheries competition, we can design and implement localized prey depletion experiments and work to improve the trophic models of intermediate complexity (Sydeman et al. 2017).  No one wants to hear that a lot more research will be needed.
Gannet eats a mackerel.  Photo by Rob Ellis. Flickr
For more sustainable food systems, we should eat less livestock and more seafood low on the food chain (Hilborn et al. 2018).  However, not all fisheries operate in a sustainable manner. To convince consumers to eat sustainable seafood, we need reliable means for evaluating and labeling marine products.  You won’t find a 'seabird safe' label at your seafood market. But how does one know?   That’s the subject for another post.


Amélineau F. Fort J. Mathewson P.D. Speirs D.C. Courbin N. Perret S. Porter W.P. Wilson R.J. Grémillet D. 2018. Energyscapes and prey fields shape a North Atlantic seabird wintering hotspot under climate change. Royal Society Open Science 5: 171883
Gordon, C.A., D.A. Cristol, and R.A. Beck. 2000.  Low reproductive success of black skimmers associated with low food availability.  Waterbirds: The International Journal of Waterbird Biology 23:468-474.
 Grémillet D. Péron C. Kato A. Amélineau F. Ropert-Coudert Y. Ryan P.G. Pichegru et al. 2016. Starving seabirds: unprofitable foraging and its fitness consequences in Cape gannets competing with fisheries in the Benguela upwelling ecosystem. Marine Biology 163: 35
 Grémillett,D.,  A. Ponchon, M. Paleczny, M-L. D. Palomares, V Karpouzi and D. Pauly. 2018. Persisting worldwide seabird-fishery competition despite seabird community decline. Current Biology 28:1-5.
 Hilborn, R., R.O. Amorosa, E. Bogazzi, O.P. Jensen, A.M. Parma, C. Szuwalski, and C.J. Walters.  2017.  When does fishing forage species affect their predators?  Fisheries Research 191:211-221.
Hilborn, R., J. Bonobi, S.J. Hall, T. Pucylowski, and T.E. Walsworth.   2018. The environmental cost of animal source foods. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 16(6):329-335.
IUCN 2018. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Version 2018-2.
Kroodsma, D.A., et al. 2018. Tracking the global footprint of fisheries. Science 359:904-908.
Larkin, P.A. 1977. An epitaph for the concept of maximum sustained yield. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 106:1-11.
Lescroël, A., R. Mathevet, C. Peron, M. Authier, P. Provost, A. Takahashi, and D. Grémillet, D. 2016. Seeing the ocean through the eyes of seabirds: A new path for marine conservation? Marine Policy 68:212–220.
Pikitch, E.K., and nineteen coauthors. 2014. The global contribution of forage fish to marine fisheries and ecosystems. Fish and Fisheries 15(1):43-64. doi:10.1111/faf.12004
Sydeman, W.J., S.A. Thompson. T. Anker-Nilssen, M. Arimitsu, A. Bennison, S. Bertrand, P. Boersch-Supan, C. Boyd, N.C. Bransome, R.J. Crawford et al. 2017.  Best practices for assessing forage fish fisheries-seabird resource competition. Fisheries Research 194:209-221