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The Nature Conservancy

Finding ways to return shad to its former glory

The Alabama shad once migrated up rivers in Florida and other southeastern states by the millions. Today, runs have dwindled. But in Florida, Conservancy scientists and partners are researching ways to return shad to its former glory.

Dams provide a significant barrier to shad, stopping them on their migration. The dams aren't going away. And very little funding exists for shad conservation.

A lock holds the key: Shipping locks move not just boats, but also fish. The challenge: How can conservationists get shad to enter locks?

Shad are drawn upstream by running water, so getting them into the locks is easy. Conservancy staff and partners run water through PVC pipes twice a day, drawing fish into the locks. The water in the lock is raised, and shad exit upstream.

Shad research reveals the fish's migratory patterns, and whether they're using the locks. It also finds other fascinating information. Many shad, for instance, bear the bite marks of longnose gar, a common river fish.

Is it working? Researchers have found that runs of up to 100,000 shad have used the locks. It's a low-cost, low-tech way to restore fish populations--all possible because of the research into the shad's migratory habits.

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