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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

STOCKTON FWO: Stockton Fish and Wildlife QA/QC Fish Identification Program

Region 8, June 12, 2012
Delta Juvenile Fish Monitoring Program staff identifying a host of fish during an exam.
Delta Juvenile Fish Monitoring Program staff identifying a host of fish during an exam. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Paul Miklos, Biological Science Technician

How can fishery managers better assess and improve the overall accuracy of fish identification within the Stockton Fish and Wildlife Office’s Delta Juvenile Fish Monitoring Program (DJFMP)?

That was the big question DJFMP biologists asked at the end of the 2011 field season. After several “think tank” meetings, a new plan was adopted to quantify the fish identification accuracy of and provide fish identification training to the DJFMP field staff.

On June 12, 2012, the second of four fish identification exams was held at the new Stockton Fish and Wildlife Office warehouse located in Lodi, Calif. The exam lasted 1.5 hours, and was made up of previously frozen fishes representing over 30 species occurring in the San Francisco Estuary.

Prior to the exam, a three person team of fishery specialists from the California Department of Fish and Game verified the accuracy of all the fish selected as specimens by DJFMP biologists. The specimens on the exam reflected the seasonal assemblage and size structures of fish encountered throughout the San Francisco Estuary, including State and Federally listed species. After the exam, the quality assurance/ quality control (QA/QC) biologist gave a brief 30 minute tutorial highlighting key diagnostic characteristics of the fish species. At the conclusion, prizes were handed out to the top scorers.

Over time, fish identification scores will give the DJFMP an accurate assessment of individual skill, encourage improvement among field staff, and highlight specific species and sizes that are more problematic to identify. The overall objective of the QA/QC program is to have the highest fish identification accuracy possible within the field during data collection and to have good estimates of the true fish identification accuracy to account for possible error or uncertainty within DJFMP data.

In the future, the QA/QC program intends to publish results on fish identification accuracy to help fisheries managers and other programs set and accomplish QA/QC goals and account for more uncertainty within fish monitoring data.

Contact Info: Joseph Kirsch, 209-334-2968 ext. 309, joseph_kirsch@fws.gov