While great strides have been made by various partners in advancing alewife restoration on Long Island over the past decade, there is still a great deal that we don't know about the status of the migratory river herring across the island. In an effort to improve our knowledge on at least two tributaries, Seatuck has installed fish counting systems -the first of their kind on Long Island- on the Peconic River and on Massapequa Creek. The systems will provide valuable information about the size and timing of alewife runs in these tributaries and help guide efforts to further improve their status in the region.
Grangebel Park Rock Ramp
On the Peconic, a video-based counting system was installed at the top of the new Grangebel Park "rock ramp," which was completed in 2009 to allow alewives to pass up the river. The system involves a submerged video camera, which films migrating alewife as they swim through a monitoring box. The camera sends non-stop footage to a computer that is equipped with software (originally developed to monitor Pacific salmon) that analyzes the video for moving fish. If the computer's "virtual tripwire" is triggered, it saves the footage to a hard drive. The video clips are then reviewed and the fish counted using a separate component of the software package.
The project, which was funded through a grant from the Peconic Estuary Program, was initiated by Brian Kelder, Seatuck's former staff fisheries scientist. Seatuck brought Brian back as a consultant in March to help finish the design and installation of the system. He also joined Seatuck director Enrico Nardone on a trip to the Conte Diadromous Fish Lab in Turner's Fall, MA where USGS biologist Alex Haro provided invaluable advice and instruction on how to set up the system. The monitoring box and weir were based on a design that Alex and his colleagues at Conte had used in several New England applications. And, in the end, the final construction and installation of the Peconic project was the product of a great collaborative effort between Seatuck, Cornell Cooperative Extension, DEC and the Peconic Paddler. Cornell's Joe Costanzo played a particularly important role in constructing the monitoring box and Seatuck intern Jake Galardi was instrumental in helping with the computer side of the set-up. Finally, a special thanks has to go to Jim Dreeben at the Peconic Paddler - he's been incredibly generous in housing the system's computer in his store (and putting up with all of us constantly going in and out of his shop!). Please consider taking a trip on the river with the Peconic Paddler!
See some of the Peconic camera's footage of the alewife migration here.
Top left: DEC's Chart Gurthrie rolls out the video cable; Bottom Left: Joe Constazo (center) gets help putting the final touches on the system. Other photos show the team putting the system in the water.
Massaequa Lake West Spillway
The system in Massapequa is completely different that the video counter on the Peconic. It doesn't record images of the fish, but rather "counts" them as they swim through a tube equipped with special electronic equipment. The counter is set up above a fish ladder that was installed last year on the western spillway of Massapequa Lake - just north of Merrick Road. Unlike the Peconic, where a known alewife "run" already exists, there are no alewife known to be using the Massapequa system. Scientists, however, think the system is likely to support the migratory fish and the ladder was installed through a project of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as part of a planned restoration effort. Seatuck was contracted by NOAA to install the counter this year and to conduct in-person monitoring of the system to assess whether any fish are present. If no existing run of alewives is found, efforts to implant fish in the system may be undertaken next year.
The Massapequa system before and after installation
Brian Kelder gets some advice from Lou Siegel of the South Shore Estuary Reserve Office