how are the blue catfish disrupting the ecosystem?

Meaty and subtle, blue catfish makes an easy dinner. Its smooth skin lacks scales. Currently, 20 states stock wild blue catfish for sport. It is perceived as a fishy-tasting, bottom-dwelling filet, and little effort has been put into its marketing. In 2012, the Chesapeake Bay office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) established a team of representatives and scientists from federal agencies and fisheries for the Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team to combat the rapid spread of wild blue catfish in the bay. Catfish, any of the fishes of the order Siluriformes. Also interesting was the fact the bellies of blue catfish were often filled with baby catfish. They have a prominent jaw, with sharp, compressed teeth. “President Knapp recently signed the Real Food Challenge,” Ms. Thomas said. The George Washington University Campus Dining has joined the fight to conserve the Chesapeake Bay by serving wild blue catfish, an overpopulated species whose large appetite has the potential to devastate the ecosystem of the Maryland watershed. “Until we have clear objectives, we will not make any progress,” added Orth. It has a slate blue body, a silver-white belly and four pairs of black, whisker-like barbels around its mouth. GW Campus Dining, sold 60 pounds of wild blue catfish in one week in April, for the initial test-run of the Wide Net Project partnership, which sources the overpopulated fish from the Chesapeake Bay . Once a fun, 40-lb catch for an angler, the blue catfish is now overly abundant and growing smaller. He found that the blue catfish diet is strongly correlated with season, salinity, and size of the fish, where larger fish tended to eat more at-risk species. With record rainfall and freshwater surges into tributaries of the Bay, it is easier than ever for blue catfish to enter new territory. ’09, who invited four students to participate as panelists at the AAA Stakeholders Summit . Wild Blue Catfish Is a Serving of Sustainability, Both Ms. Stuart and Ms. Gruber agree that the premise of the Wide Net Project—sourcing wild blue catfish from the Chesapeake Bay, funneling the catch through local processor and distributor. “We thought what better way to understand what millenials are thinking about the food they eat than to bring them into a dialogue with stakeholders and Rob Morasco, the senior director of offer development at Sodexo,” Ms. Meredith said. “Looking at GW’s sustainability efforts, I think that going forward there will be a lot of opportunities to engage,” Ms. Meredith said. Managers and scientists are worried that these catfish will hurt endangered populations, but Orth found that “at-risk species are rarely consumed,” although they do eat a lot of blue crabs in the fall and winter. On top of all of these barriers, there just is not a lot of demand for catfish. “Wide Net Project’s mission is to address two problems simultaneously that are often not linked together,” Ms. Gruber said. Blue catfish have a forked tail, and are sometimes very similar to channel catfish. The university purchased 60 pounds of fresh wild blue catfish for the first test of the program. “Consumption is the best solution for reducing the wild blue catfish populations and restoring balance in the bay,” she said. “The Office of Sustainability brought the Wide Net Project to our attention, and we were able to work with Sodexo to bring this exciting pilot program to campus,” Campus Dining General Manager Bernadette Thomas said. Effects: Blue catfish, which are native to the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio River basins, are one of the most threatening invasive species in the Potomac River. Ms. Meredith credits her background at GW for the spark that helped her pursue agriculture and said that she is excited that sustainable food programming is integral to the university’s goals. Don Orth, Professor at Virginia Tech, has been studying fish management for years and has recently published several papers on blue catfish, including one published in 2017. They were first introduced to the neighboring James, Rappahannock, and York rivers during the 1960s-80s. Blue catfish has a very long lifespan. These included channel catfish, another exotic species introduced from the Great Lakes to Maryland rivers as a sportfish in 1889. In Chesapeake Bay, blue catfish is included as pest. A channel catfish will have dark spots, whereas a blue catfish will not. The species was introduced in the James, Rappahannock and York rivers in Virginia for recreational fishing in the 1970s. Blue catfish are disrupting the ecosystem because there are so many of them that they are threatening native species like the blue crab. Bluefish live up to 12 years. Many politicians are proponents of the provision because they are looking to support their constituents’ farmed catfish markets. While research on the effects of blue catfish has been underway, the Bay lacks a clear strategy for how to handle all the fish: “We have increased our knowledge in the past 20 years substantially,” said Orth, “the problem is, we have not worked to get agreed-upon management objectives.”. The George Washington University Campus Dining has joined the fight to conserve the Chesapeake Bay by serving wild blue catfish, an overpopulated species whose large appetite has the potential to devastate the ecosystem of the Maryland watershed.. But the nutrient-rich tidal waters of the Bay provide a habitat that is almost too good for the blue catfish, allowing them to become very abundant and navigating into tributaries where they have not been previously recorded. An average catfish is usually between 25-40 inches and measures 20-40 pounds. He noted that there are many stakeholders with different opinions on how to move forward, and there needs to be conflict resolution in order to find a strategy that works for all parties. Understand this and you'll catch more catfish. Some authorities, however, have regarded these groups … "Wide Net Project’s mission is to address two problems simultaneously that are often not linked together. The university intends to purchase more catfish for campus dining during the fall semester. The blue catfish is a long fish with a flat dorsal fin and deeply forked tail. That’s because unlike the farmed variety, which eat a diet of corn-and-soy feed, blue cats feed on medium-size fish like menhaden and white perch. In the last 40 years, the invasive fish has devastated a long-established indigenous ecosystem, crippling local economies that depend on crabs and other marine fauna for their livelihoods. “If they are going to take away from crab harvests, that is where it is going to happen,” said Orth. To just say that the Blue Catfish is harmful because it ate so much of one species or … “We wanted to know how, why and where they get information about the food they eat. Learn how to find blue catfish in it's simplest form by following this rule. A blue catfish with a recent blue crab snack. “As more organizations sign on and our volume increases, we can subsidize the fish and offer lower prices and higher volumes,” Ms. Stuart said. “The Wide Net Program, as a local, sustainable initiative, is another way to move the needle on our efforts in a positive direction.”. Orth thinks they will continue to adapt as opportunistic omnivores. “That’s exactly what we need – some kind of interstate group with enough stakeholders so we can have these conversations and objectives.”, Education, Training, & Research Initiatives, large blue catfish have been found to have elevated levels of heavy metals, including mercury. Researcher Don Orth and a huge catfish catch. For the Chesapeake Bay, a region synonymous with blue crabs and a diversity of native fisheries, the blue catfish is like Shiva the Destroyer. He hopes to use it to test different management interventions and calculate the effects of consumption on blue crabs or other target species. A humped back is displayed in front of the dorsal fin. These invasive catfish can live for 30 years and grow up to 100 pounds. “When you think about the entire Bay, each one of these river systems is different in terms of salinity, depth, length, degree of nutrient input,” making it hard to draw broad conclusions. Catfishes are related to the characins, carp, and minnows (order Cypriniformes) and may be placed with them in the superorder Ostariophysi. In a provision of the 2008 Farm Bill, USDA inspectors have to be on site when handling catfish, creating a significant barrier for small processing facilities. In addition to the partnership with the Wide Net Project and the Real Food Challenge, GW has enhanced sustainable engagement at the university through the GroW Garden, Meatless Mondays, the Urban Food Task Force and other initiatives. It is bluish-gray in color with a white belly. Facts about Blue Catfish 3: the life span. The menu addition, which debuted in April, is the result of a partnership between GW, Sodexo and the … Bluefish are blue-green on the back and silvery on the sides and belly. Additionally, large blue catfish have been found to have elevated levels of heavy metals, including mercury, posing a potential human health risk. Spring is hands down the best time of the year for catching huge numbers of blue catfish across the United States and my absolute favorite time for some fast and furious blue cat action.As the weather begins to warm and seasons transition from winter to spring, blue catfish are on the prowl and they have aferocious appetite.. Anglers who have a good understanding of what the … Its diet is varied, consisting of insects, plants, Maryland blue crabs and fish native to the bay. The blue catfish, the channel catfish, and the white catfish are the only three catfishes in the U.S.A. that have distinctly forked tails, setting them apart from the bullheads and the flathead catfish, which have squarish or slightly emarginate tails. It would take large investments in processing facilities in order to make it worth it to increase catches. “Using this economic model to serve the public good by helping organizations provide healthy food, including fish, has made our message much stronger,” Ms. Gruber said. If they are not a major cause for concern for most at-risk species, how are these abundant fish affecting their ecosystem? His team sampled over 16,000 blue catfish stomachs from the James, Pamunkey, Mattaponi, and Rappahannock Rivers and saw that catfish have extremely broad diets including vegetation, detritus, mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. “We are looking forward to seeing what GW does next.”, COMMUNICATIONS & MARKETING GW is the first Sodexo account to partner with the Wide Net Project. Orth is hopeful that the group will identify research goals for him and other scientists. The blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) is the largest species of North American catfish, reaching a length of 165 cm (65 in) and a weight of 68 kg (150 lb).The typical length is about 25–46 in (64–117 cm). It has white chin barbels, clear or white fins with black borders on the dorsal and caudal fins. Washington, DC 20006. You can find them living in a colony in coastal area. Blue catfish were introduced to the Bay in the 1970’s to support sport fishing, when thousands of the Mississippi River natives were brought into the Rappahannock and James Rivers. This species has a deeply forked tail like the channel catfish, but the blue catfish can be distinguished by the following: It never has dark spots on the back and sides. Blue catfish, like our other catfish, have smooth, scaleless skin and barbels (“whiskers”) around the mouth. However, only the Rio Grande population has dark spots on the back and sides. With record rainfall and freshwater surges into tributaries of the Bay, it is easier than ever for blue catfish to enter new territory. Credit: Orth. It can live up to 20 years. Scientists are working to measure the impacts of all of these blue catfish, namely what they are eating and why it matters. However, it usually weighs 20 to 40 lbs. Credit: Orth. Most recently, the university connected with Communications Director of the Animal Agriculture Alliance (AAA) Emily Meredith, B.A. and providing fish to restaurants, universities and nonprofits for consumption— is a simple solution to a devastating problem. By Brittney Dunkins. Both Ms. Stuart and Ms. Gruber agree that the premise of the Wide Net Project—sourcing wild blue catfish from the Chesapeake Bay, funneling the catch through local processor and distributor J.J. McDonnell and providing fish to restaurants, universities and nonprofits for consumption— is a simple solution to a devastating problem. Their impact on the river’s ecosystem is not fully known at this time, but there is concern they could harm other fish populations through competition and predation. The study only checked the stomach contents of one predator, while neglecting other species in the ecosystem. Carrie was so proud of her mom, saying she had no idea she knew how to rap! Description: Blue catfish have a forked tail and are very similar to channel catfish in looks. “The exciting thing about working with Sodexo and GW is the potential for a large-scale impact,” Ms. Gruber added. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources also encourages recreational fishermen, known as anglers, to catch wild blue catfish. The Wide Net Project also creates local partnerships with organizations, such as the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, to increase access to healthy food, specifically protein, in underserved communities by subsidizing the cost of the fish. If you experience a barrier that affects your ability to access content on this page, let us know via the. They are using up the resources in … (68 kg). A Thai chili catfish dish sold out in its first run. They are turning up in high numbers in the James, Potomac, and small tributaries all over the watershed, including formerly high-salinity areas that are now awash with rainwater. Chinese mitten crabs (Eriocheir sinensis) are aquatic invaders in the Hudson River.They are native to East Asia and have been a costly and environmentally damaging invader in Europe and San Francisco Bay. With so many available in the Bay, one solution could be that people should simply eat more catfish. “Linking the environmental message with hunger relief has allowed us to connect with sustainable efforts on multiple levels.”. They grow fast, up to 31 pounds and 39 inches. Though the wild blue catfish started out as the “catch of the day,” it grew into an invasive species in the 1980s, spreading to the Chesapeake Bay watershed and shifting the balance of the ecosystem. Ms. Gruber added that the best way for students to get involved is to speak up about the program. George Washington University Campus Dining, Chesapeake Bay office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team, The Maryland Department of Natural Resources. They have expanded their range and population so much that they are likely negatively affecting the Bay ecosystem because they eat so many native species, such as striped bass, blue crab, shad, herring, and Atlantic sturgeon. “Catfish has always been a lower-valued product in the US,” explained Orth. Back and upper sides are pale blue to olive or slate gray and it is white ventrally. Blue Catfish on the Move . While we are not certain how the crab arrived in New York, it is most likely that it occurred through live release or transport in ship ballast water. “But no one knows how many blue catfish would need to be caught to reduce potential conflicts with other species – or whether a market exists for that large a catch,” reported the Bay Journal. In the meantime, Orth and colleagues Corbin Hilling and Dr. Yan Jiao are working on a population model of the catfish. Blanc said a typical catch in the Delta waters would include catfish, blue gill and crappie. “We’ve been processing catfish for 50 years, and never had a problem,” said Ricky Nixon, an owner of Murray L. Nixon Fishery in Edenton. The menu addition, which debuted in April, is the result of a partnership between GW, Sodexo and the Wide Net Project, a local nonprofit that facilitates the harvesting of wild blue catfish for public consumption. The blue catfish is one of the biggest species of catfish in North America. The native distribution of blue catfish is primarily in the Mississippi River drainage, including the Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Arkansas Rivers, … GW students—GroW Garden Manager Jesse Schafer, Student Dining Board member Eric Estroff, Jennifer Weinberg, who grew up on a cattle farm, and Student Eco Rep Miles Milliken—discussed how they perceive, assess and interact with food with milk, meat and egg producers who were eager to continue discussions throughout the day. Harvesting the fish provides income to fishers and reduces the population and predation of the wild blue catfish, thereby, restoring populations of Maryland blue crab and other species, she said. This species of blue catfish is causing all sorts of problems by disrupting the ecosystem in the waters around the Chesapeake Bay. Managers must figure out how to restore American shad now that catfish are here to stay. This suggests the blue cats could be having a negative impact on the bay ecosystem. Scientists from Virginia Tech try to net the large numbers of James River Blue Catfish surfacing during an electrofishing survey in 2015. Credit: Jason Emmel. How to identify a Blue Catfish. Blue catfish is a newcomer to Washington stores and restaurants, it’s sustainably caught in the Chesapeake Bay, and it’s probably tastier than any catfish you’ve ever had. I think this article is one sided against blue catfish. A slate-blue-bodied, silver-bellied native of the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi basins, the wild blue catfish can live for more than 20 years and grow to more than 100 pounds. They have a forked tail, very smooth skin with no scales, and a wide head. “First, we want to address healthy food access for underserved communities and, second, conservation in the Chesapeake Bay related to the overpopulation of the wild blue catfish.”. Blue catfish can reach maximum length of 5.4 feet (165 cm) and weigh 150 lbs. Blue catfish are a lot like teenage boys. First, we want to address healthy food access for underserved communities and, second, conservation in the Chesapeake Bay related to the overpopulation of the wild blue catfish.”. “I always do my work in the management context, that can be used by managers.”, He and many others are optimistic about the Chesapeake Bay Program Invasive Catfish Workgroup. “One way that students can engage in hunger relief and biodiversity in the Chesapeake Bay is to tell their favorite restaurant about the Wide Net Project and request the wild blue catfish at their university,” Ms. Gruber said. They are able to reproduce at age 2, when they’re 15 to 20 inches in length. A non-native fish, blue catfish were first introduced to tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay in the 1960s and 1970s and have become popular with recreational fishermen. In addition, catfish are labor-intensive and produce less meat than striped bass or tuna, bottlenecking production. 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue NW “This partnership furthers our efforts to bring local, sustainable food to the campus community.”. Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, University Joins Real Food Challenge at Earth Day Celebration, GroW Garden Offers a Lesson in Sustainability, Chesapeake Bay Office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, GW is committed to digital accessibility. The number of rays in the anal fin is typically 30-35, and coloration is usually slate blue on the back, shading to white on the belly. Facts about Blue Catfish 4: the invasive pests. So Hetzler is going with the “if you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em” philosophy and making these invasive fish downright delicious, frying them tempura style and serving on a brioche roll with lettuce, tomato and special sauce. Cook it simply: pan-seared in butter, doused with fresh lemon, served atop spring-fresh potato salad. They're disrupting the ecosystem. They are turning up in high numbers in the James, Potomac, and small tributaries all over the watershed, including formerly high-salinity areas that are now awash with rainwater. Populations of non-native northern snakehead fish and blue catfish are rapidly growing and expanding into new areas of the Potomac. The fish can live to 20 years. In another 2017 study, Orth’s team used a DNA barcoding technique to identify species eaten by blue catfish and flathead catfish, and found that blue catfish are not eating a lot of herring and shad – in fact, flathead catfish eat three times more migrating river herring and shad than blue catfish. Blue catfish are blueish grey or white in color which is much different than flatheads and bullheads which are brown and yellowish. “Together, Wide Net, Sodexo and GW have launched this pilot program with the hope that by successfully engaging the university community, we can grow in the region,” Ms. Stuart said. For example, in the Potomac River, blue catfish are bycatch in gillnet fisheries, and due to their high abundance, may severely reduce gear efficiency for target species Biology. This is where the Wide Net Project Steps in. As bycatch, blue catfish interact with fisheries operating in Chesapeake Bay tidal tributaries and may negatively affect economic interests. Against blue catfish with a flat how are the blue catfish disrupting the ecosystem? fin to adopt a management strategy in.... With Sodexo and GW is the best solution for reducing the wild blue catfish are rapidly and... 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