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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI Oceanographer to Study Effect of Scheduled Dredging
on Winter Flounder in Narragansett Bay

Narragansett Bay Narragansett, RI -- July 11, 2002 -- Dredging in Narragansett Bay between the Hurricane Barrier and just south of Rumstick Neck is scheduled to begin in November and be completed in August of 2004. Dredging in the upper river will be avoided during the winter flounder spawning season because the upper reaches of the river are thought to be important spawning and larval growth areas for the commercially important species. However, since the spawning season is long, the spawning areas have not been defined in the Providence River, and newly hatched larvae have been collected at a number of Providence River and upper Bay stations, it may be difficult to avoid disturbing the spawning grounds.

To assess the possible effects of dredging on winter flounder larvae, the Rhode Island Governor’s Office has awarded URI Graduate School of Oceanography marine scientist Grace Klein-MacPhee a $20,000 grant that will allow her to conduct baseline studies of the upper Bay prior to and during dredging.

Winter Flounder-Courtesy of GSO Klein-MacPhee will examine the impact of dredging on fish eggs and newly hatched larvae by placing eggs in chambers developed by the research team and exposing them to suspended sediments in the water column in areas adjacent to where dredging will occur. One of the goals of the project is to improve the predictive ability of a stress index she is using that was developed by Newcomb and Jensen in 1996 to gauge effects of suspended sediment on freshwater fish and to test the applicability of the index to predicting the responses of winter flounder eggs and larvae. The research results will allow scientists to predict effects of dredging and other similar events in other locales and on other species that live near the bottom of a river or bay.

"Winter flounder is a key species of concern with regard to this and other dredging projects because it is an important recreational and commercial species, its populations are currently low, and its eggs lie on the bottom, making them particularly vulnerable," said Klein-MacPhee. "Once we have analyzed our field experiments, we will present our findings to the Governor and other interested parties. We hope our information will help diminish the effects of dredging on winter flounder as much as possible."

Klein-MacPhee has 28 years’ experience in winter flounder spawning, culture, and ecological studies. She has been the principal investigator in two major field projects collecting, identifying, and processing fish eggs and larvae in Narragansett Bay for the Narragansett Bay Project and the National Estuarine Research Reserve. The latest ongoing survey she is working on involves working closely with RI DEM Fish and Wildlife Division, providing information for the state on the current distribution of eggs and larvae in the bay with emphasis on commercial species.

Contact: Lisa Cugini, (401) 874-6642, lcugini@gso.uri.edu

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