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Juvenile Salmon Acoustic Telemetry System

Fish-Tracking Technologies

Whether you are monitoring fish behavior, evaluating fish passage through structures, or seeking partnerships related to these technologies, the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is ready to work with you. To learn more about PNNL's licensing and collaboration opportunities, download the Fish-Tracking Technologies brochure.

The Juvenile Salmon Acoustic Telemetry System (JSATS) employs acoustic transmitters and receiving systems to remotely track fish in one, two, or three dimensions with sub-meter accuracy. Development of the system was initiated in 2001 for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Portland District by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and NOAA Fisheries. The goal was to create an acoustic transmitter small enough for implantation in the smallest migratory individuals of the juvenile Chinook salmon and steelhead populations of the Columbia River basin. The JSATS has been used to monitor the behavior, movement, habitat use, and survival of juvenile salmonids migrating from freshwater (through rivers, reservoirs, and past hydroelectric dams) into saltwater. Although the JSATS was initially developed and has been extensively used to study juvenile salmonids in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, its utility is applicable to a wide range of aquatic species, research goals, and locations. The JSATS has also been used to monitor the movements of many other species such as European eel sea trout, channel catfish, smallmouth bass, northern pikeminnow, walleye, lamprey, and sturgeon; fish behavior in relation to a variety of waterpower structures; and in many other geographic locations including California, Australia and Brazil. Over one hundred thousand fish varying in size from 85-1000 mm have been studied with JSATS tags since 2005.

Current and previous applications of the JSATS illustrate the versatility of the system:

  • Estimation of survival and travel time of juvenile salmon migrating more than 800 km of freshwater river, reservoir, estuary, and marine habitat
  • Assessment of survival and habitat use of juvenile salmonids migrating through an estuarine environment
  • Determination of impacts of ferry terminals on juvenile salmonid movements in salt water
  • Estimation of route-specific dam passage survival of juvenile salmonids
  • Observation of predator-prey interactions
  • Evaluation of fish guidance and passage structures at hydroelectric dams using detailed 3D tracking
  • Monitoring of delayed mortality of juvenile salmonids transported past hydroelectric dams in barges.
  • Evaluation of fish behavior in dam tailraces using high-accuracy high-efficiency 3D tracking
  • Evaluation of fish behavior at a mid-reach location using high-accuracy high-efficiency 3D tracking
  • Determination of fish survival and migration behavior at a river confluence to determine effects of water temperature stratification and dissolved gas

Water Power Research