Electrofishing Sheds Light on Health of Woonasquatucket River

By: Tim Studebaker

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Lined with historic mills, peppered with dams, and bearing a polluted history, the health of the Woonasquatucket River remains a priority for its watershed council.

Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council Environmental Educator Sara Canuel says, “We really want to care about this river.  You know, it’s amazing to go in and to be able to see that there’s actually life in this river that seems so polluted and dirty.  It’s not.”

That’s what inspired volunteers, on a warm summer afternoon in Providence, to put on some protective gear, strap on a backpack that looks like it’s straight out of the movie “Ghostbusters,” and head into the river.  They’re collecting some important information using a pretty interesting method.

Canuel says, “We have someone in the water with an electrofishing backpack, and the backpack actually releases a small current into the water.  The current stuns and confuses the fish for a quick second, and so our other team members can grab a net and pick up the fish.”

Everything they catch is recorded, measured, and has its picture taken before being released back into the water.  It’s a widely used method, and we’re told it does not harm the fish.  The program started in 2014 as a way to make sure we’re doing the right things to help the river and the fish that live in it.

Canuel says, “It’s a beautiful place filled with some really awesome creatures.  We should really do a great job to try to protect it and take care of it.”

They’ll be at it again August 30th further upstream in Smithfield.

If you’d like to know more, visit the watershed council’s website here: http://www.wrwc.org/fish_monitoring.php

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