Patrick Cooney of Smith-Root approached PNAMP to collaborate on his 2014 Quebec City AFS meeting talk entitled “Electrofishing in Practice: Variations in Regional, National, and Continental Approaches”. We discussed the apparent and real discrepancies that there are within electrofishing methods. PNAMP added to the conversation by looking within the Monitoring Methods library for documented electrofishing methods. The complete list of the documented electrofishing methods contained 31 “different” methods, 13 of those in the category of backpack electrofishing and eight within the boat electrofishing category.
Working with Patrick and investigating the methods within the Method Library has spurred PNAMP to initiate the method review process for electrofishing. This process hopes to create more robust and generic methods within the method library that multiple protocols can use. To read more on the Method Review Process see: http://www.pnamp.org/document/3885.
This fall, PNAMP will take the first steps to identify documented methods, perform a basic review of the method and prepare a short summary of the basic review findings. PNAMP will facilitate an online discussion with interested parties to review methods, make suggestions, and come to a consensus on documentation. In order for this processes to work we need broad participation from the community. If you are interested in participation in electrofishing method review please contact Becca Scully at firstname.lastname@example.org or Katie Pierson at email@example.com.
In case you missed it, here is a synopsis of Patrick's talk:
Electrofishing has a rich history, starting with a patent issued in London, England to Isham Baggs in 1863 for an “apparatus for paralysing, capturing or killing fish, birds and other animals.” While the application of an electrical field in water was originally utilized for personal exploitation of fisheries resources, including the capture of large sharks and tuna, most developed countries have shifted to only permit the use of electrofishing equipment for scientific endeavors. Subsequently, electrofishing equipment has experienced significant advances, specifically to address concerns about the potential for injury to both the users and the study organism. Alternating Current (AC) is efficient at capturing fish, but raises concern for its higher rate of injury, whereas Direct Current (DC) is less efficient at capturing fish, but also provides less concern for injury. Alternatively, Pulsed Direct Current (PDC), where DC is pulsed at a user designated rate and duration, is seen as a valuable compromise of efficiency and risk aversion. However, understanding the necessary frequency, pulse width, voltage, and current of the PDC, as opposed to much simpler controls on older electrofishing models, requires specialized training and proper protocols to make sure that study organisms and personnel stay safe while study objectives are being met. Many electrofishing protocols and training opportunities exist to aid researchers, however, training is underutilized and there is very little discussion or conversation between agencies to ensure that electrofishing protocols and training courses meet the needs of researchers or are actually being used. Evidence of improper use of electrofishing equipment is highly apparent in online materials, and reporting of electrofishing methods in scientific journals is significantly lacking in detail and understanding.
Perhaps a conversation should be held between electrofishing groups (agencies, universities, private industry, manufacturers, etc.) to discuss adequate training and develop protocols that will be properly utilized. The Pacific Northwest Aquatic Monitoring Partnership (PNAMP) is a leader in compiling information to facilitate this conversation. Monitoringmethods.org allows researchers to document and share their methods and protocols in a database for others to read and reference. With this collective database, a proper discussion can be facilitated to streamline methods and interoperability between user groups while further ensuring training for personnel and organism safety to preserve the long term viability of electrofishing as a valuable tool in the field of fisheries conservation.