EPA-OW: EPA RBP (Fish):  Fish, Rapid Bioassessment, electrofishing

  • Summary
  • Analytes
  • Revision
  • Data and Sites
Official Method Name
Rapid Bioassessment Protocols for Use in Streams and Wadeable Rivers: Periphyton, Benthic Macroinvertebrates and Fish, Second Edition
Current Revision
WATER  (Waterbody type - Wadeable stream)
Electrofishing Unit
Method Subcategory
Method Source
  Barbour, M.T., J. Gerritsen, B.D. Snyder, and J.B. Stribling, 1999, Rapid Bioassessment Protocols for Use in Streams and Wadeable Rivers: Periphyton, Benthic Macroinvertebrates and Fish, Second Edition. EPA 841-B-99-002. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Office of Water. Washington, D.C.
EPA RBP Protocol - Rapid Bioassessment Protocols for Use in Streams and Wadeable Rivers: Periphyton, Benthic Macroinvertebrates, and Fish - Second Edition
Brief Method Summary
The Rapid Bioassessment Protocol (RBP) for fish presented in this document, is directly comparable to RBP V in Plafkin et al. (1989). The principal evaluation mechanism utilizes the technical framework of the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) — a fish assemblage assessment approach developed by Karr (1981). The IBI incorporates the zoogeographic, ecosystem, community and population aspects of the fish assemblage into a single ecologically-based index. Calculation and interpretation of the IBI involves a sequence of activities including: fish sample collection; data tabulation; and regional modification and calibration of metrics and expectation values. This concept has provided the overall multimetric index framework for rapid bioassessment in this document. The RBP for fish involves careful, standardized field collection, species identification and enumeration, and analyses using aggregated biological attributes or quantification of the numbers (and in some cases biomass, see Section 8.3.3, Metric 13) of key species. The role of experienced fisheries scientists in the adaptation and application of the RBP and the taxonomic identification of fishes cannot be overemphasized. The fish RBP survey yields an objective discrete measure of the condition of the fish assemblage. Although the fish survey can usually be completed in the field by qualified fish biologists, difficult species identifications will require laboratory confirmation. Data provided by the fish RBP can serve to assess use attainment, develop biological criteria, prioritize sites for further evaluation, provide a reproducible impact assessment, and evaluate status and trends of the fish assemblage. Fish collection procedures must focus on a multihabitat approach — sampling habitats in relative proportion to their local representation (as determined during site reconnaissance). Each sample reach should contain riffle, run and pool habitat, when available. Whenever possible, the reach should be sampled sufficiently upstream of any bridge or road crossing to minimize the hydrological effects on overall habitat quality. Wadeability and accessability may ultimately govern the exact placement of the sample reach. A habitat assessment is performed and physical/chemical parameters measured concurrently with fish sampling to document and characterize available habitat specifics within the sample reach.
Scope and Application
This method pertains to fish collection methods detailed in Chapter 8 of the EPA protocol: "Rapid Bioassessment Protocols for Use in Streams and Wadeable Rivers: Periphyton, Benthic Macroinvertebrates, and Fish - Second Edition"
Applicable Concentration Range
Sampling efficiency is dependent, at least in part, on water clarity and the field team's ability to see and net the stunned fish. Therefore, each team member should wear polarized sunglasses, and sampling is conducted only during periods of optimal water clarity and flow.
Quality Control Requirements
1. Quality control must be a continuous process in fish bioassessment and should include all program aspects, from field collection and preservation to habitat assessment, sample processing, and data recording. Field validation should be conducted at selected sites and will involve the collection of a duplicate sample taken from an adjacent reach upstream of the initial sampling site. The adjacent reach should be similar to the initial site with respect to habitat and stressors. Sampling QC data should be evaluated following the first year of sampling in order to determine a level of acceptable variability and the appropriate duplication frequency. 2. Field identifications of fish must be conducted by qualified/trained fish taxonomists, familiar with local and regional ichthyofauna. Questionable records are prevented by: (a) requiring the presence of at least one experienced/trained fish taxonomist on every field effort, and (b) preserving selected specimens and those that cannot by readily identified in the field for laboratory verification and/or examination by a second qualified fish taxonomist. Specimens must be properly preserved and labeled. When needed, chain-of-custody forms must be initiated following sample preservation, and must include the same information as the sample container labels. 3. All field equipment must be in good operating condition, and a plan for routine inspection, maintenance, and/or calibration must be developed to ensure consistency and quality of field data. Field data must be complete and legible, and should be entered on standardized field data forms and/or digital recorders. While in the field, the field team should possess sufficient copies of standardized field data forms and chains-of-custody for all anticipated sampling sites, as well as copies of all applicable Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Sample Handling
Maximum Holding Time
Relative Cost
Sample Preparation Methods