Shad in Schools: Restoring American shad to White Clay Creek
Master’s student Erin McVey and IPA assistant policy scientist Martha Corrozi Narvaez pause a few minutes to allow American shad fry to acclimate to the water temperature before releasing them, below, into the tidal portion of White Clay Creek.


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10:22 a.m., July 8, 2010----On May 7, the Water Resources Agency (WRA), a unit of the University of Delaware's Institute for Public Administration (IPA), released several hundred American shad fry into the White Clay Creek as part of the inaugural Shad in Schools project in the White Clay Creek watershed .

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IPA assistant policy scientist Martha Corrozi Narvaez is the principal investigator and is working with IPA associate policy scientist Andrew Homsey, WRA director Jerry Kauffman, and urban and regional planning master's degree students Erin McVey, Sarah Chatterson and Stacy Mack to implement this program.

On May 2, migrating American shad were collected from the Potomac River and stripped of eggs by a project partner, the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.

WRA received these shad roe (eggs) and acclimated them to a tank of water. The shad roe hatched in approximately 2-3 days, and the fry were released in the tidal portion of the White Clay Creek at the Hale-Byrnes House, located on old Route 7 just south of Stanton, Del.

This release was part of a broader effort to restore American shad to the Delaware River Basin. On the same day, the Brandywine Conservancy coordinated a similar effort on the Brandywine River, which included four schools, two in Chadds Ford, Pa., and two in Wilmington, Del.

The program has a distinct timeline that must be followed each year in order to mimic the natural conditions in the stream and prepare for the arrival of the American shad eggs.

In mid-April WRA received the shad-rearing tank equipment, and the shad tank was constructed. The tank ran for approximately 2-3 weeks prior to receiving the shad eggs. During this time, WRA conducted water-quality tests on the system, including tests on ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH and temperature.

Shad are anadromous fish, spawning in fresh water streams and migrating to the ocean to grow and mature. The shad fry that were released will remain in the White Clay Creek until the water temperatures begin to drop in the fall. The shad will then swim out to the Atlantic Ocean, where they will continue to grow. They will remain in the ocean for 4-6 years before returning to the river they were released in for their first spawn.

The Shad in Schools program is an applied experience that educates students, teachers, and the public about the history, problems/decline, and life cycle of American shad while teaching math and science concepts through the balance of water conditions and temperature. The objectives of this program include:

  • Educate and inform students, teachers, and the public about American shad and their significance;
  • Assist in improving American shad populations in the Delaware River Basin; and
  • Teach students about the importance of good water quality and habitat through hands-on testing and observations that utilize and teach science and math skills.

The Shad in Schools program, an education and outreach tool, is part of a larger effort, funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to restore shad and migratory fish passage and habitat, increase spawning areas, and benefit the resident fish in watersheds. (See related UDaily article.) The Delaware Shad Fishermen's Association and the Brandywine Conservancy are providing direction and assistance to WRA.

Through these efforts, WRA is gaining knowledge about the Shad in Schools program so that it can be replicated in schools in the White Clay Creek watershed next spring.

Historically, there have been declines in the abundance of American shad due to over-fishing, degradation of riverine habitat quality, dam construction, and pollution. Water quality, however, has improved in the past couple decades as a result of the Clean Water Act.

It is WRA's hope that the fish-passage barriers will be removed and the 107-square-mile National Wild and Scenic White Clay Creek watershed will become a sustainable habitat for the American shad.

Those who are interested in helping to restore American shad to the White Clay Creek and would like to bring this program to a school in the White Clay Creek watershed should contact Martha Corrozi Narvaez via email at [].

Article by Martha Corrozi Narvaez
Photos by Mark Deshon