October 31, 2014
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New book, 'Inland Fishes of Rhode Island,' features more than 70 species

The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has announced publication of “Inland Fishes of Rhode Island,” a book depicting the more than 70 species of fish found in Rhode Island’s ponds, streams and rivers.

This book is a definitive scientific work and the first of its kind for Rhode Island freshwater fish species. It was written by biologist Alan D. Libby and illustrated by Robert Jon Golder. The 287-page book contains descriptions and illustrations of each species of fish found in Rhode Island’s freshwaters during surveys conducted by DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife from 1993 to 2012. Detailed characteristics used to identify each species are presented, in addition to habitat descriptions, life history information, and a distribution map for each species. Scientific illustrations of each fish in color and black and white aid with identification.

“Rhode Island hosts an incredible diversity of fish species, and we are pleased to make this new resource available for folks to learn about the habitats and habits of the variety of fish living in our state’s waterways,” said DEM Director Janet Coit in a statement.

Libby has worked as a principal freshwater biologist for DEM for the past 26 years and has focused his efforts on surveying the freshwater fishes of the state. He spent 20 years surveying more than 377 ponds and stream segments throughout Rhode Island, often returning to the locations several times during multiple years. Although a variety of sampling techniques were used to survey the fish, electrofishing was the primary technique used. Libby describes the methodology he used for the surveys at the beginning of the book.

From 1993 to 2012, more than 72 species of fish representing 34 families were collected. Of those, 32 species of freshwater fish, representing 21 native and 11 introduced or non-indigenous species were sampled. In addition, more than 30 species of fish that regularly or occasionally spend a portion of their lives in both fresh and saltwater were collected. The most diversity was found in the Pawcatuck River, which boasted 67 species, followed by the Blackstone River basin, which had 31 species. The Pawcatuck River’s greater diversity is the result of it having fewer dams to obstruct the movement of fish in and out of the river.

The American eel and the largemouth bass were the most commonly occurring fish species. They were found in more than half of the localities surveyed, in all 10 of the state’s watersheds, and in both stream and pond locations. Pumpkinseed, bluegill, chain pickerel, wild brook trout and brown bullhead were also widely distributed, appearing in more than a third of the localities sampled and in at least nine of the state’s 10 drainage basins.

In the last four years several new species of fish have been discovered, some of which are considered invasive exotics such as the rock bass and green sunfish.

Libby worked closely with artist Robert Golder on the color and black and white illustrations that are featured throughout the book.

“DEM biologist Alan Libby spent a good portion of his career surveying hundreds of rivers, streams and ponds across Rhode Island, from the crisp cool waters of the Pawcatuck River to the Blackstone River basin in the northeastern part of the state, to produce this scientific compilation of fish species found in our waters,” added Director Coit. “‘Inland Fishes of Rhode Island,’ with its stunning and scientifically-precise illustrations, is a cool book and a great read – get your hands on one!”

The book is a resource for scientists, students, anglers and nature lovers alike, and would make an excellent addition to a research facility or home library as well as a great holiday gift. Published by DEM’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, “Inland Fishes of Rhode Island” is being sold for $26.75, including tax. It may be purchased in person at the DEM Office of Boat Registration and Licensing in Providence by cash, check or credit card (credit card requires an extra fee) and at the Division of Fish and Wildlife Field Headquarters in West Kingston, by check or money order only. The book may also be purchased through the mail using the order form located at www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/inlandfishes.htm.

Funding for the book was provided from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sport Fish Restoration Program.


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