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News MassWildlife to monitor fish using video

Cameras at fish passages on Massachusetts rivers capture anadromous fish traveling to their spawning grounds.
  • Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Media Contact for MassWildlife to monitor fish using video

Marion Larson, MassWildlife

smallmouth bass in fish ladder

Each spring MassWildlife monitors fish passages at hydroelectric dams on the Westfield and Merrimack Rivers. Operations at these locations allow fish biologists to monitor the number of anadromous fish traveling upstream. Anadromous fish are born in fresh water but spend most of their adult lives in the ocean before returning to rivers and streams to spawn. Fish passage facilities, including fish lifts and fish ladders, allow fish to swim upstream of dams. Without these structures, anadromous fish would be cut off from their spawning habitat and populations would plummet. Through a federal permitting process, MassWildlife works with dam owners where hydroelectric power is produced to ensure safe, timely, and effective passage of anadromous fish. ​

This year, a new system was installed on the Westfield River to record digital video of fish traveling upriver. As fish exit the fish ladder, they pass an underwater window and are caught on camera. The American Shad run on the Westfield averages 4,000 but has been as high as 10,000. Sea lamprey, American eel, smallmouth bass, river herring, white suckers, carp and several species of trout also travel upstream using the fish ladder. To date, the camera has recorded all of these fish species and even a beaver on its journey upstream! Technicians will review the video footage and count fish at a later date. A similar camera system has been operating at the first dam on the Merrimack River in Lawrence, MA for several years. This technology is allowing monitoring to continue despite the COVID19 pandemic.

Media Contact for MassWildlife to monitor fish using video

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife 

MassWildlife is responsible for the conservation of freshwater fish and wildlife in the Commonwealth, including endangered plants and animals. MassWildlife restores, protects, and manages land for wildlife to thrive and for people to enjoy.