Fisheries Program
Northeast Region
Biologist holding a lake sturgeon. Credit: USFWS
Biologist holding a lake sturgeon. Credit: USFWS

What We Do

  1. Our Goals
  2. Fisheries Conservation
  3. Habitat Restoration
  4. Endangered Species Recovery
  5. Invasive Species Control
  6. Education & Recreation
  7. Budget & Facilities Management

Our Goals

  1. Conservation and management of aquatic species
  2. Conservation and management of aquatic ecosystems
  3. Provide recreational fishing opportunities
  4. Increase public stewardship and public benefits of aquatic resources
  5. Strengthen tribal conservation capabilities
  6. Demonstrate  leadership in science and management, accountability, and results

Fisheries Conservation

Fisheries conservation and management is the bread and butter of the Fisheries Program. Maintaining and restoring fish, freshwater mussels and other aquatic species is a high priority. The objective is to reverse declines in these populations and to stabilize the populations so that they can thrive on their own. We do this by first assessing the status of our aquatic species. Then we review their needs and obstacles to having those needs fulfilled. Once we understand what is required, we act. In some cases, this means holding some animals in a safe place while their natural habitat remains disrupted.  In other cases we produce fish and mussels in hatcheries for release in the wild to restore or enhance existing populations. Sometimes we correct concerns that affect the health of the fish. Other times we restore habitat and access to habitat. Our work usually involves collaboration and cooperation from other, federal, state, and non-government partners.  The work is conducted by our local offices with examples described below:

National Fish Hatcheries
A dozen federal hatcheries in the Northeast support actions to conserve and maintain important aquatic trust species including:

  • Providing safe shelter for freshwater mussels jeopardized by in-river construction or pollution;
  • Freshwater mussel production and release to enhance wild population numbers;
  • Production and distribution of disease-free rainbow trout eggs as needed to minimize disease in hatchery produced trout and to prevent loss of wild trout resources across the country, part of the National Broodstock Program;
  • Production and release of Atlantic salmon fry, parr, and/or smolts in tributaries throughout the Saco, Connecticut, Merrimack and Pawcatuck River watersheds;
  • Recovering wild, endangered Atlantic salmon in eight of Maine's smaller rivers, as well as the Penobscot, Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers;
  • Annual production and release of over 660,000 lake trout yearlings in Lakes Erie and Ontario; and
  • Production of American shad fry for release in the Charles and Merrimack River restoration programs as well as rivers within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices
Seventeen offices in eight northeastern states protect, maintain and restore aquatic habitat, monitor fisheries populations, protect the health of aquatic creatures and develop and share new technologies for fisheries management through various activities including:

  • Controlling the spread of aquatic invasive species like water chestnut and zebra mussels;
  • Surveying both hatchery and wild fish populations for disease;
  • Assessing the genetic diversity of fish populations as a means of evaluating fitness, resiliency, and movement patterns, all key to hatchery and habitat restoration work;
  • Working with Tribes, partners and private landowners to remove dams, replace culverts and restore free-flowing streams requisite for addressing declining fish populations and defragmenting America’s rivers;
  • Monitoring fish populations to develop population trends as needed for sound and consistent management decisions; and,
  • Assisting agency regulatory staff with developing prescriptions for hydro-electric dams to ensure the passage of fish both up and downstream of dams that block passage and movement of fishes thus depriving upstream inhabitants of access to these trust resources.
Wilet Street culvert. Credit: WIll Smith
Wilet Street culvert. Credit: WIll Smith

Habitat Restoration

Dam removal, culvert replacement, fishway construction and restoration of stream dynamics are an important part of conserving the Region’s fisheries. Fisheries Program staff are working at completing these sorts of projects directly. Fisheries is also expanding the agency capability by provides funding to other state, federal, municipal agencies, universities, and non-government organizations to help implement habitat restoration projects. This approach promotes local ownership of projects, leverages existing federal funding with partner funding expanding the scope and number of projects, and accelerates out progress in restoring Northeast rivers. The funding programs are coordinated in the Regional Office and open to the public. They include: the National Fish Passage Program and the National Fish Habitat Action Partnerships.

Why does this work matter? The primary reasons for the decline of fish and other aquatic species are linked to habitat loss or alteration in habitat and impacts from aquatic invasive species. The economic value of river barrier removal is about $500,000 per mile river access restored. Restoring habitat benefits declining species and makes economic sense. . That makes this work important to the public.

Check out this video about stream bank stabilization!

Endangered Species Recovery

Atlantic salmon, shortnose sturgeon, Roanoke logperch, and a myriad of freshwater mussels are federally listed as endangered. The decline of many of these creatures is the result of barriers to migration and alterations to habitat but there are many factors associated with their population decline. The Fisheries Program is integral to recovery of these species. As an example, salmon are reared in hatcheries (Green Lake and Craig Brook NFHs) and released into native rivers in Maine to enhance remnant wild runs.  Access to critical habitat is being restored through removal of culverts and dams. On the other hand, freshwater mussels are removed from streams and held in refugia as a means of protecting the animals when they are in harm’s way.

Mussels. Credit: USFWS

Snakehead. Credit: USGS
Snakehead. Credit: USGS

Invasive Species Control

Zebra mussels, Eurasian ruffe, and snakehead are a few of the nuisance species that the Service is working with States, partners and field staff to manage. Management includes prevention, early detection, rapid response to control infestation, long term monitoring, and education. 

This work is important because invasive species threaten natural resources across state and international boundaries. They threaten nearly half of the listed endangered species in the United States. The impacts of infestations are the second leading cause of declining biodiversity, after habitat destruction. They reduce fishing and aquatic recreation opportunities, lower property values, and cost the country $120 billion annually. Threats from these nuisance species are expected to increase as a result of global climate change which is already opening new transmission pathways, compromising native species, shifting species distribution, reproductive timing, and behavior.

For questions, contact the Regional Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator:

Mike Goehle
Lower Great Lakes Fishery Resources Office
405 North French Road
Amherst, NY 14228
Phone: 716-691-5456
Fax: 716-691-6154

For more information:

Education & Recreation

Education and Outreach

As stewards of northeast aquatic resources, the Fisheries Program staff is well aware of our obligations to the public.  People have a vision of us working outdoors tagging three foot long Atlantic sturgeon in all weather. Hands-on management of resources is an important part of our work, one that we make a big effort to share with the public. We are reaching out to share these experiences and to encourage community stewardship through a variety of venues including volunteer and internship programs, hands-on classroom educational programs, visitor centers, hatchery tours, videos, podcasts, websites, Scout Jamborees, and Veteran’s fishing events.

Recreational Fishing

Both the Regional office and local offices conduct fishing events to introduce youth to recreational fishing. This is important as a relaxing, social pastime. Fishing also boosts local economies. There are 6.5 million anglers in the Northeast. They fish  95.1 million days every year. And, connected with fishing, they spend about $6.3 billion on travel and equipment.

Because of this significant economic value to local communities, the Fisheries Program invests in recreational fishing by operating the White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery, a rainbow trout broodstock hatchery in West Virginia. There hatchery staff rear disease-free trout and provide healthy eggs to other hatcheries across the country. Those trout are raised and released for the benefit of anglers but also to protect the health of wild, native fisheries in our nation’s streams and lakes.

Our recreational fishing responsibility is established in the Recreational Fisheries Executive Order (pdf - 70kb).

Effluent pipe being replaced at White River National Fish Hatchery. Credit: USFWS
Effluent pipe being replaced at White River National Fish Hatchery. Credit: USFWS

Budget & Facilities Management


The Budget Team develops the annual funding plan for the Fisheries Program in the Regional Office and Fisheries field stations, manages those budgets, and forecasts future funding and budget requirements. This includes everything from distributing the funds the way Congress and the President intended to paying the bills and accounting for the outcomes. Keeping the numbers straight requires good communications between headquarters and the field stations, and within the Regional Office.

Facilities Management

Field equipment maintenance, infrastructure rehabilitation, and construction projects in the Fisheries Program are planned, designed in coordination with the field stations, and overseen by both the field stations and the Facilities Management Team which is based in the Regional Office. The Team also provides emergency response to fix unexpected break downs and outages, storm damage, and other catastrophes that require immediate action. This Team includes a civil engineer, an architect, and a biologist. Taking care of the $300 million in existing Fisheries property assets requires inventory, yearly condition assessments, maintenance and construction planning that forecasts required work and needed funding up to five year in advance.

Check out this video about and emergency pipe replacement at White River National Fish Hatchery.

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Last updated: January 20, 2012
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