Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Migratory Fish Management and Restoration Plan for the Susquehanna River Basin


The following management plan was written by The Susquehanna River Anadromous Fish Restoration Cooperative (SRAFRC). The SRAFRC is an organization comprised of fishery agencies from three basin states, the Susquehanna River Commission (SRBC), and the federal government working together to restore self-sustaining anadromous fishery resources and their habitats in the Susquehanna River Basin. This cooperative activity recognizes the need for a unified approach to planning, management, stock enhancement, and evaluation of inter-jurisdictional fishery resources. It's purposes are:

  1. to provide a forum for information exchange;
  2. to plan and implement anadromous fishery stock rebuilding programs;
  3. to coordinate research activities aimed at collection of scientific data necessary to effect and assess the fishery restoration program;
  4. to establish and maintain a comprehensive database and to report on progress; and
  5. to coordinate agencies involvement with construction, operation, and evaluation of passage facilities at dams in the Susquehanna River Basin.

Members of the cooperative are the U.S. fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The full organization charter is available as a PDF titled Susquehanna River Anadromous Fish Restoration Cooperative (929 KB PDF)


Anadromous fish are fish that migrate from the sea to fresh water for spawning. In the Susquehanna River these are mainly the American shad (Alosa sapidissima), hickory shad (A. mediocris), blueback herring (A. astivalis), alewife (A. pseudoharengus), gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum), Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus), shortnose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum), and striped bass (Morone saxatillis).

Catadromous fish are fish that do the opposite; they migrate from freshwater to the sea for spawning. In the Susquehanna River the American eel (Anquilla rostrata) is the sole catadromous fish.

The term migratory is used in the Migratory Fish Management and Restoration Plan for the Susquehanna River Basin to include both the anadromous and catadromous fish of the Susquehanna River basin.

Migratory Fish Management and Restoration Plan for the Susquehanna River Basin

Executive Summary

The Susquehanna River once supported large numbers of migratory fish, including American shad, blueback herring, alewife, hickory shad, striped bass, Atlantic sturgeon and shortnose sturgeon. These stocks have been severely impacted by human activities, especially dam building. In the 1950's, the resource agencies implemented a program to restore access for migratory fish to the upper Susquehanna River basin, focusing on American shad. In response to harvest declines that signaled critically low fish stock levels, the directed American shad fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay region were closed (Maryland in 1980 and Virginia in 1994). The American shad stock in the Susquehanna River improved slowly and made an impressive comeback by 2001 when over 200,000 adult shad were counted at the Conowingo Dam fish lifts. However, since 2001, adult numbers have decreased most likely due to a variety of factors, including poor efficiency of fish passage measures and facilities; low hatchery production in recent years; low numbers of spawning fish accessing quality habitat; poor young-of-year recruitment upstream of Conowingo Dam; ocean and Chesapeake Bay mortality; turbine mortality; and predation. The existing and new challenges made it clear that updates were needed to the previous Susquehanna River American shad restoration plan.

The Migratory Fish Management and Restoration Plan for the Susquehanna River Basin will serve as the SRAFRC's restoration guide and management plan for migratory fish resources. This comprehensive watershed plan serves as the lead document that will guide migratory fish management and restoration. The success of this plan is dependent upon stakeholder involvement in a dynamic process of restoration and upstream and downstream passage, water quality monitoring and improvements, and watershed planning coordination. Benchmarks set in this plan should be reviewed periodically, thereby maximizing the probability of success using science-based evaluations.

The goal of this plan is to "Restore self-sustaining, robust, and productive stocks of migratory fish capable of producing sustainable fisheries, to the Susquehanna River Basin throughout their historic ranges in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York. The goals are 2 million American shad and 5 million river herring spawning upstream of the York Haven Dam. Goals for American eel and other migratory species are yet to be determined."

The full report is available as a PDF titled Migratory Fish Management and Restoration Plan for the Susquehanna River Basin (1.46 MB PDF)