Fish and Aquatic Conservation


Making Waves in Conservation Technology

Through the years, advances in technology have dramatically impacted the conservation landscape. In the fisheries field, this rapid evolution of new research helps us to better understand and protect aquatic resources. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish and Aquatic Conservation program is advancing cutting-edge technologies across the country that will shape the future of aquatic conservation for years to come. 

Here are five ways that Fish and Aquatic Conservation is leading the way in advanced conservation technology.

An open hand with a syringe and a small pile of thin plastic cylinders in the palm.
Passive Integrated Transponder tags. Photo by Sam Stukel / USFWS

Telemetry studies reveal the hidden lives of fish.

Data from small transponder tags can be used to study the movement of fish, teaching us about migration, habitat use, and population health. These tiny transponders, sometimes smaller than a grain of rice, are shining a light on the hidden lives of fish and improving our ability to conserve their habitat.

A hand holds a brown fish with red and yellow spots near the surface of the water.
Brook Trout photo courtesy of Ryan Cooper Maryland DNR.

Conservation genetics helps us understand the health of at-risk populations.

Before we knew how to measure it, few could imagine how widely diverse genetic information is within a species, or that it is the key to their survival. We have six conservation genetics labs across the country to help us better understand species relationships, gene flow among populations, and the geographic and biological boundaries between populations. This research ensures that we are making informed conservation decisions to protect America’s fish and aquatic resources.

A person with latex gloves holds a rack of large plastic cylinders
Water sampling tubes for eDNA testing. Photo by USWFS.

Environmental DNA is revealing new tools in the fight against invasive species.

Environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling is a new technology that could give us the ability to tell what species are present in a river or lake just by sampling the water. Currently, eDNA is used to monitor for the genetic presence of bigheadand silver carp, two species of invasive carp. By sampling waters that could potentially be invaded by these species, the detection of their DNA can indicate the potential presence of the fish itself.

A large white fish is held just above the surface of the water.
Endangered Pallid Sturgeon captured in the upper Missouri River. Photo by Christopher S. Guy/USGS

Cryopreservation ensures a future genetic lock box of at-risk species.

We develop cryopreservation techniques for imperiled species to support fisheries operations at our facilities and those of our partners. We are also working on developing cryopreservation techniques for freshwater mussel and amphibian species. Cryopreservation helps preserve and increase genetic diversity of both hatchery raised and wild fish populations.

A river runs through a culvert under a road. A surveyor stands on the road.
A fish-friendly culvert in installed under a road in Alaska. Photo by Katrina Liebich / USFWS.

Engineering solutions help to build better for wildlife.

Getting fish past dams, under highways, or around irrigation systems is no easy task. It requires a blend of biology, engineering, and hydrology to build a passage that fish will swim through. New specialized research facilities at the Bozeman Fish Technology Center are helping researchers develop engineering design criteria to ensure the fish have a smooth ride.

Applying science to conservation challenges

Our applied science and technology facilities guide our fisheries conservation practices.

Fish Technology Centers develop new techniques to solve problems in hatchery operations and aquatic resource management. They assist with the recovery of endangered, threatened, and declining populations of fish and other aquatic species, prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, and improve fish culture technology and culture protocols.

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices are a network of field stations located throughout the nation that work to conserve fish and aquatic resources. These field stations provide technical assistance to tribes, conduct scientific studies into fishery problems, restore habitat through the National Fish Passage Program and the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, and collaborate with partners to conserve migratory fishes that cross multiple jurisdictions.

Fish Health Centers work on the front lines of helping prevent the spread of aquatic viruses and keeping both wild and hatchery fish healthy. Fish Health Centers develop diagnostic procedures and vaccines to prevent disease, and apply new research methods and techniques that improve fish health.

The Aquatic Animal Drug Approval Partnership Program works towards the development of new, safe, and effective Food and Drug Administration-approved medications for use in aquaculture programs. The benefits support both freshwater and marine finfish culture and fisheries management programs nationwide.

Working with you to study, understand, and protect our shared aquatic resources.

We work with tribes, states, universities, and research labs to advance the science of aquatic conservation. Contact one of our offices to explore potential research and collaboration opportunities.