There was a lively debate in the 316(b) session at the recent meeting of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) in Quebec when the subject turned to the EPA’s recent guidance indicating that ‘fragile fish’ do not need to be protected. The conclusion of the conference delegates and EPRI delegates present was that plant operators will still need to protect many of these vulnerable species under conservation law, and that the federal guidance will be overridden at state level to meet conservation objectives.
Dr Andrew Turnpenny, Fish Guidance Systems Fisheries Director, commented “the fragile fish are the species most sensitive to acoustic deflection systems and in the UK Best Practice is considered to be the use of an acoustic fish deflection (AFD) system to deflect these vulnerable fish, combined with a fish return system for the robust species”. The potential advantage of acoustic technology was highlighted when one paper outlined how a demonstration project of travelling screen fish return technology at a power facility had fallen well short of the requirement to ensure the safe return of 76% of the fish owing to the presence of fragile and semi-fragile species. This is a clear example of where acoustic deterrence technology could ensure the target would be met.
The fragile fish are defined in Section 40 CDR § 125.92(m) of Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which states –
Fragile species means those species of fish and shellfish that are least likely to survive any form of impingement. For purposes of this subpart, fragile species are defined as those with an impingement survival rate of less than 30 percent, including but not limited to Alewife, American Shad, Atlantic Herring, Atlantic long-finned squid, Atlantic menhaden, Bay Anchovy, Blueback Herring, Bluefish, Butterfish, Gizzard Shad, Grey Snapper, Hickory Shad, Menhaden, Rainbow Smelt, Round Herring and Silver Anchovy
Fish species of particular conservation concern are listed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to be ‘Endangered’ (Hickory shad), or a ‘Species of Concern’ (Alewife, Blueback herring and rainbow smelt) while a number of the fish (Alewife, American Shad, Atlantic menhaden, Blueback herring, Bluefish, and Hickory shad) are Atlantic Coastal Act Species, and so can expect to be protected by the 15 Atlantic coastal states that are governed by the US Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act.