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STOCKTON FWO: Stockton Fish and Wildlife Office Conducts Acoustic Tagging of Juvenile Salmonids for South Delta Survival Studies
California-Nevada Offices , June 12, 2014
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Tagging at the hatchery.
Tagging at the hatchery. - Photo Credit: Jack Ingram
Tag validation equipment at the hatchery.
Tag validation equipment at the hatchery. - Photo Credit: Jack Ingram
Unloading Chinook salmon from the transport truck at the release site.
Unloading Chinook salmon from the transport truck at the release site. - Photo Credit: Pat Brandes
Unloading Chinook salmon at the river's edge.
Unloading Chinook salmon at the river's edge. - Photo Credit: Pat Brandes
Loading fish into holding containers at the release site.
Loading fish into holding containers at the release site. - Photo Credit: Pat Brandes
Taking fish to release site from the holding location.
Taking fish to release site from the holding location. - Photo Credit: Pat Brandes

By Pat Brandes

During the spring of 2014, the Stockton Fish and Wildlife Office participated in two salmonid survival studies. The studies estimated juvenile salmon and steelhead survival through the lower San Joaquin River and Delta. The studies will identify route distribution and route specific survival as the fish migrate downstream.

The objective of the studies are to identify the causes of mortality in the Delta due to flows, exports and other Central Valley Project and State Water Project and non-project effects on smolts out-migrating from the San Joaquin basin. The steelhead study is part of a six year study funded by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as a reasonable and prudent alternative( Action IV.2.2, NMFS, 2009, page 645), for the National Marine Fisheries Service’s, Biological Opinion and Conference Opinion on the Long-term Operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.

Three groups of juvenile steelhead and three groups of juvenile salmon were released between late March and late May. Each steelhead group consisted of 480 acoustic tagged fish, tagged over a  three day period. Each salmon group consisted of 648 tagged salmon, tagged over a four day period. Once the tagging was completed, the fish were transported to the release site and held there for a minimum of 24 hours prior to release. Fish were released every four to six hours over a 24 hour period, after being held for 24 hours.

The Salmonid Survival Studies program within the Stockton FWO was responsible for the tagging and release components of the studies but these projects had labor contributions from multiple groups both within the Service as well as those from outside the Service. The studies used staff from all programs within the Stockton FWO, as well as staff from two other Service offices and two other federal agencies.

Staff from within the Stockton FWO included two individuals from the Aquatic Invasive Species Program, one individual from the Anadromous Fish Restoration Program and twelve individuals from the Delta Juvenile Fish Monitoring Program staff, which supplemented field efforts of ten, temporary staff hired for the project. Administrative staff at the Stockton Office also contributed to the project by ordering services and purchasing supplies. In addition, two individuals from the Service’s Bay-Delta FWO helped with field work at the release site. Staff from the Service’s CA/NV Fish Health Center conducted the fish health analyses on a subset of the fish after they had been held at the release site for 48 hours. Two individuals from two separate U.S. Bureau of Reclamation offices’ (the Sacramento Bay-Delta office and the Denver Technical Service Center) also contributed to the project by driving fish transport tanks and supporting the tagging process at the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery. Ttwo individuals from the National Marine Fisheries Service were also involved in tagging and transferring fish to the river at the release site.

Other non-Service partners also supported the projects by purchasing equipment, providing fish and tagging space and deploying and maintaining the wide-spread acoustic receiver array in the Delta. For instance, the California Department of Water Resources and National Marine Fisheries Service purchased a portion of the acoustic tags and supplies used in the Chinook salmon study; to facilitate their evaluation of predator control efforts, downstream of the release location. In addition, the Chinook salmon and steelhead were provided by, and tagging was done at, the Mokelumne River Hatchery, an East Bay Municipal District (EBMUD) hatchery operated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Lastly, the receiver array was funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as part of the six year steelhead study, and was deployed and maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey.

It will be a couple of months before the data is downloaded from all the receivers in the river and Delta and several more months before the data is completely analyzed, but the tagging and the release components of the projects have been completed for this year. Several challenges were encountered and overcome this year and it was through the hard work, dedication and cooperation of our diverse team and support from our partners that helped us succeed.

Reference Cited: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). 2009. Biological opinion and conference opinion on the long-term operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project. NMFS Southwest Region. June 2009.

Pat Brandes is a fish biologist at the Stockton Fish and Wildlife Office in Lodi, California.


Contact Info: Yvette Sky, (209) 334-2968 x301, yvette_sky@fws.gov



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