Thousands of Local Students Raise and Release Disappearing Native Fish Species to Help Restore Chesapeake Bay

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   May 10, 2013
Contact:   Alison Zemanski Heis, Media Relations Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, C: 202.384.8762
Ed Stierli, Steve & Roberta Denning Landscape Conservation Fellow, National Parks Conservation Association, C: 202.697.0788
Mackenzie Betrone-Harpst, Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region, P: 202.488.0627 x226


Thousands of Local Students Raise and Release Disappearing Native Fish Species to Help Restore Chesapeake Bay

This week, 4,000 local students took part in the “Schools in Schools” program, raising shad fry in their classrooms to release today into the Anacostia and Potomac rivers at two locations – the National Arboretum and the Chesapeake & Ohio National Historical Park at Old Angler’s Inn from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.  In recent years, this program has added an estimated 300,000 native shad back into the ecosystem, increasing their survival rates which offer a significant step towards restoring the region’s population. Today’s “Schools in Schools” shad release program is supported by Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region, the National Parks Conservation Association, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin and the Anacostia Watershed Society. 

Thousands of Washington, DC area students have helped harvest American shad eggs, with assistance from biologists at the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, to raise in their classrooms.  Students built hatchery systems within their classrooms and witnessed their eggs hatch into shad fry to transport and release at green spaces and area national parks, into the Anacostia and Potomac rivers.

“This is more than a classroom project for the kids involved. Chesapeake national parks serve as living classrooms for students, and provide an opportunity for them to play a critical role in the restoration of an ecologically and culturally significant fish species for the Chesapeake Bay,” said  Ed Stierli, Landscape Conservation Fellow for the National Parks Conservation Association.  “This week’s activities provide a hands-on educational experience where students are leading citizen conservation efforts to improve the overall health of waterways and national parks in the Chesapeake watershed.”

American shad is a key indicator species of clean water within the Chesapeake Bay and its river tributaries. It has long been a part of the region’s history and culture as a previously abundant source of food and keystone fish species within the Chesapeake’s ecosystem and at national parks located within the watershed. By the 1970’s, loss of habitat, water pollution, and blocked waterways led to an almost complete disappearance of the North American shad in the Chesapeake. However, thanks to restoration efforts by students and local partner groups to reverse this ecological disaster, shad populations are rebounding. 

“The Schools in Schools program is a tremendous success story of how concerned individuals, non-profits, corporations, and government agencies can work together to have a huge, lasting impact on their watershed.  Students from area schools have released millions of American shad fry into the local waterways over the years as part of a broader restoration effort, and have at the same time learned invaluable lessons supporting their in-class education,” said Mattison Boyer, Managing Director of Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region.  “We’re indebted to NRG Energy and the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin for their generous support over the years.” 

Today’s shad release program supplements classroom lessons and educational materials that focus on habitat connectivity and aquatic life cycles. Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region, the National Parks Conservation Association, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin and the Anacostia Watershed Society, and other partners continue to work together to restore habitat and aquatic species populations along the rivers and national parks of the Chesapeake. 

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About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA and its 750,000 members and supporters work together to protect our National Park System and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for our children and grandchildren www.npca.org.

About Living Classrooms: Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region has provided meaningful, job-training, hands-on education, and enrichment programs to over 100,000 youth since 2001, including over 15,000 youth in the National Capital Region annually. The Shad Program is one program that directly involves students in an environmental restoration project, utilizing a variety of academic and real-world skills and knowledge.  By the end of the program, students understand that their work will continue to benefit shad and their local watershed in the future. For more information, please visit www.livingclassroomsdc.org/.

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