What Can You Do?

Individual citizens and towns can take important steps to help the rainbow smelt recover. Local efforts are essential and can make a big difference in the survival of the species.

1. Get to know your smelt runs. Find out where smelt spawn in your town and insist that local officials protect these valuable habitats.
2. Fix dams and culverts blocking smelt from spawning areas. Many dams and culverts prevent rainbow smelt and other fish from swimming upstream and downstream. In collaboration with owners and government agencies, dams can be removed, culverts reconfigured, and culverts replaced with bridges.

3. Plant shrubs and trees along stream banks and refrain from clearing existing vegetation. Vegetated buffers help to filter out pollutants, sediment, and excess nutrients before they enter the waterway. Shrubs and trees also shade streams, keeping the water cool for fish.

4. Maintain natural stream channels and substrate; restore those altered with concrete walls or other structures. Faster-flowing water in altered streams can lead to scouring or crowding of smelt eggs. Low water velocity and unnatural substrates can reduce egg attachment and incubation success.

5. Use less road salt and sand near streams. When salt and sand are washed into streams, they can kill smelt eggs.

6. Clean storm drains annually. Debris and infrequent maintenance can clog storm drains, forcing water to flow over ground. The water carries sediment and contaminants into streams, which may harm eggs.

7. Use less fertilizer on your property. Water carries fertilizer into streams, where the nutrients promote growth of algae on smelt eggs.
8. Participate in creel surveys of smelt fishermen. Information collected in the surveys is essential for sustaining the rainbow smelt harvest into the future.

9. Provide funding for smelt research and monitoring. Scientific research provides critical information for conservation and restoration of the species.
10. Fund purchases of conservation land that contain smelt habitat. Protection of spawning streams and adjacent land is an important step in reversing the dramatic decline of rainbow smelt.