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A Partnership of UNH Cooperative Extension and NH Fish and Game

Making Fish Data More Accessible

As a fisheries biologist with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department (NHFG), I often get asked questions about the fish species that live in the state. It might be a student working on a school project or someone from a conservation organization working on a watershed management plan. University researchers, environmental regulators, anglers, land trusts, and conservation commissions have all requested fish data for a variety of reasons since I started with the department in 2004. The Inland Fisheries Division maintains a fish survey database with over 4,000 survey records going back to 1983. The database is frequently used by biologists within the department for conservation planning and fisheries management decisions. It was instrumental in the development of New Hampshire’s Wildlife Action Plan and it is frequently consulted for prioritizing restoration or watershed protection projects throughout New Hampshire.

Electrofishing boats are used to conduct fish surveys in the shallow margins of lakes, ponds, and slow flowing rivers. (NHFG)Unfortunately, the information in the database is not easily accessible to the public. When I get a question or request for information, I usually consult the database, extract the data, and respond in an email. As the database grew and the variety of requests increased, it became obvious that the fish survey data would be useful to a much wider audience if it were available online. An interactive map over laid with points that represent survey sites would allow users to put their fish questions in perspective. What species are rare or declining in the state? What is being done to conserve them? What species might I find in a particular river or stream?    

It has taken almost five years, but The New Hampshire Fish Survey Map is finally available on the New Hampshire Fish and Game website. If you scroll down to the bottom of any page on the website you will see a link called Maps. On the maps page, the New Hampshire Fish Survey Map is the second link from the top. Clicking on the link will bring you to an ESRI Story Map. The orange dots on the map of New Hampshire represent fish survey sites throughout the state. The scroll bar on the right contains an introduction to the data. As you move down the scroll bar you will see brief descriptions of certain fish species that live in New Hampshire. When you are viewing a particular species in the scroll bar, only surveys where the species was found will be represented on the map. This gives you an idea of its distribution in New Hampshire. Within each species description there is also a link to a more detailed profile of each species, called Fish Fact Sheets, on the NHFG website. 

On the map itself, you can click on individual survey points. This will display the location of the survey, the survey method used, and a list of fish species identified with a letter “P” for present at the site or an “A” meaning that the fish was absent from the survey. Keep in mind that absent from the survey does not necessarily mean that the fish species is not found in the waterbody. It just means that the species was not found in the survey on that date using that particular method.  At this point the fish data represented in the map is current up to 2013. This winter I am planning to update the map through 2017. My hope is that giving people the ability to explore the fish survey data online will help inform their questions and raise awareness for aquatic conservation in New Hampshire.

---Matt Carpenter, Fisheries Biologist, NH Fish & Game Department
Fall 2018 Taking Action for Wildlife Newsletter