Assessing electric fishing sampling effort to estimate stream fish assemblage attributes

Vehanen, T., Sutela, T., Jounela, P., Huusko, A. & Mäki-Petäys, A. 2013. Assessing electric fishing sampling effort to estimate stream fish assemblage attributes. Fisheries Management and Ecology 20(1):10-20.

The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) obligates authorities to assess the ecological status of rivers. The sampling of the fish assemblage must be based on a reliable and cost-effective monitoring programme, and it should be optimised to measure the ecological quality cost-effectively. The efficiency of single-pass versus three-pass backpack electric fishing was measured to assess ecological status. The data included 295 electric fishing samplings from 137 rivers in Finland and a 5-year data series from six small forest streams in mid-eastern Finland. Compared with three-pass electric fishing, single-pass electric fishing in the same area increased the risk of missing rare fish species and species with low catchability. The concordance of the calculated fish metrics (e.g. proportion of tolerant and intolerant species) between one- and three-pass measurements was, however, high, suggesting that single-pass electric fishing was a suitable sampling procedure to evaluate ecological status. Increasing the area sampled by single-pass removals stabilised the variances in the fish metrics and similarity indexes. It was concluded that in small streams electric fishing an area 24-27 times the stream width and in general a minimum of 300 m2, but preferably more than 450 m2, was adequate to estimate fish assemblage attributes reliably in boreal streams.