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Spencer Baird & The Foundation of U.S. Fish Hatcheries

“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

US Fish Hatcheries

Driving up to the Berkshire National Fish Hatchery near Great Barrington, Massachusetts, I set out to learn more about lake trout restoration, also studying brook trout and its importance to New England’s rivers and streams. What is the significance of these fish hatcheries across the U.S.? How many eggs are transferred to broodstock to make a positive impact? 

Every day, we see posts on our favorite social media channels, in the evening news, or our coffee table magazines; writers share their concerns about depleting fishing grounds and hatchery fish not being the “silver bullet.” It makes me wonder what Spencer Fullerton Baird saw in the late 1800s as he set up and rolled out the plan to build over 70 fish hatcheries across the United States. What type of visionary was he, and where did he begin with species? After watching conservationists fill tanker trucks with thousands of gallons of water loaded with trout, salmon, or sturgeon, they set off for a local reservoir or lock to infuse the waters with life.  

Woods Hole Laboratory

Inspired by John Audubon, Spencer Baird made it his mission to understand the importance of conservation better and began his career collecting samples for the Smithsonian, taken through geological surveys. After years of running the most prestigious organization, he accepted the role as the first U.S. Fish Commissioner, pro bono. From there, in partnership with Yale University, they built the first marine station at Woods Hole in Falmouth, Massachusetts.  

Woods Hole

The Importance Of Fish Hatcheries

Eating dinner out is a treat for me, and I crave sushi, that delicious briny and spicy tuna rolled up with Japanese Horseradish root or Wasabi. They are naturally grown along mountain rivers, amongst fern patches, in the higher and wetter elevations. I want that fresh sliced salmon roll, Ikura dipped in fermented soy, and a swallow of Sake. Not to mention amazing oysters, the briny umami is amazing. It all melts in my mouth when I dig into some of the best quality products graded for fresh eating. How do we sustain the type of demand for gastronomy, like sushi? What did Spencer Baird see way back when our fisheries were bountiful?

Fish Ladders

The 70+ hatcheries in the United States were all founded to help solve local and regional conservation efforts. Places like Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery raise 12.5 million Chinook Salmon, contributing to ocean harvest and sport fishing. As I thought about total production, the total number of fish and aquatic species released in 2023 was 104,158,110.  Not to mention amazing oysters, the U.S. offers over 150 varieties stemming from 5 species. Oysters, clams, and mussels comprise over 67% of hatchery aquaculture.  Pacific and Atlantic species are the largest populations, improving water quality and tidal areas. How will we achieve sustainability as our population grows and we require more of everything? What are fish hatcheries and commercial fishing doing as part of the effort? Join us as we begin to explore efforts.   

Oysters - Foraging and Farming

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