2016-10-13 / Nature

Fogarty Returns to the Bay

By Jack Kelly

Fogarty in the Big Fish of the Bay exhibit tank. 
(Photos by Jack Kelly) Fogarty in the Big Fish of the Bay exhibit tank. (Photos by Jack Kelly) This interesting fish tale had its beginning in April of 2015, when a group of third graders from the Mary E. Fogarty Elementary School in Providence participated in a Save The Bay trawling adventure aboard the organization’s MV Alletta Morris. STB educators and biologists conducted trawling runs and displayed the many different types of marine creatures and organisms which were captured to the schoolchildren.

While most of the specimens were returned to the bay, some were kept for exhibit in the STB Exploration Center and Aquarium located at Newport’s Easton’s Beach. According to Adam Kovarsky, aquarist and educator at the aquarium, “These types of adventures allow us to show the children the vast diversity of marine life that dwells within the bay, and how they can help to preserve the bay for generations to come.”

Adam Kovarsky holds Fogarty and prepares to release the fish. Adam Kovarsky holds Fogarty and prepares to release the fish. On one of the last trawls the net caught a long piece of discarded fishing line. Not wanting to leave it behind to cause future problems for boaters or marine creatures, the crew began to haul it into the boat. Everyone on board was surprised to discover that at the end of approximately 300 feet of line was a striped bass caught on a hook! “It was about 25 inches long and somewhat emaciated,“ Kovarsky said. “It bore a couple of infected wounds and scars from encounters with unknown adversaries.”

The children wanted to know if it could be saved and a couple of the youngsters pleaded with staff to try. The students named the large fish Fogarty, in honor of their school. Fogarty was placed in a special tank and the young scientists were assured that everything that could be done to save the fish would be tried.

“Fogarty is a tough fish, and after just a few weeks of intensive care, proper diet and some TLC, it began to respond and grow healthier,” Kovarsky said. On June 25, 2015, The Exploration Center and Aquarium unveiled a new exhibit, Big Fish of the Bay, and Fogarty, healthy and measuring 30 inches, was one of the stars of the event!

“The striped bass is a species of concern, and we try not to keep any animal more than a year,” Kovarsky explained recently. “It is time for this one to return to the bay.” On Wednesday, Oct. 5, Kovarsky and Tom O’Brien, a STB intern and undergraduate in the University of Rhode Island Marine Biology Department, prepared Fogarty now measuring 35-36 inches, and very healthy, for its return to the Bay. “We made sure this special fish received plenty of extra breakfast to hold it until it finds prey of its own,” Kovarsky commented.

After acclimating Fogarty to the water temperature at the release site and aerating his holding tank for 30 minutes, Kovarsky walked the tank into the water. Gripping Fogarty with both hands and fighting the squirming fish, Kovarsky slowly lowered him into the water. With a massive splash of its tail, Fogarty swiftly swam for deeper water and freedom.

“Fogarty was a great educational animal for visitors to the aquarium to view and study. We hope to replace it him the future with another striped bass,” Kovarsky said.

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