PNNL captures picture of fish passage with acoustic camera

RICHLAND, Wash.-If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how valuable is a high-resolution image of fish seen through murky water? Very valuable, according to scientists seeking to understand fish movement near hydropower dams. Recently, fisheries biologists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory deployed an acoustic camera originally designed for the Navy at a dam in the Northwest to study and illuminate their understanding of fish behavior.

In its first fisheries application, the camera provided PNNL researchers with some of the best images yet taken of juvenile salmon movement near a dam. The images showed an individual fish's undulating movements, and its head and tail were visible, even at distances of 30 feet. Evaluations were done at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' The Dalles Dam, a 2,089-foot-wide structure straddling the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon.

Scientists at the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory in Seattle initially developed the camera for the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center. The Corps' biologists agreed with the value of such detailed images, purchased the UW's latest version and funded PNNL to assess the system's effectiveness in evaluating fish bypass measures. PNNL and the Corps worked together to develop the camera's use for fisheries-related work and the first application currently under way at the dam.

"We recognized the potential of this instrument and are stretching the limits of what it was designed for," said Russ Moursund, PNNL project leader. "We are the first to apply the acoustic camera to fisheries issues. So far, it has captured images with greater detail and at greater distances than any other methods we've used. We'll continue to conduct tests to further evaluate its effectiveness in studying fish behavior."

Other techniques have greater limitations than the acoustic camera. Traditional sonar techniques have suffici

Contact: Staci Maloof
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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