New Fairy Shrimp Survey Protocols Released

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued updated survey protocol guidelines for listed fairy shrimp in California and southern Oregon on June 25. The guidelines divide California into Zones A, B and C (see map below) for surveying protocol purposes.

Protocol Guidelines

Brock Ortega, a Dudek biology practice lead and long-time permit holder, offers the following assessment:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife 2015 revised fairy shrimp survey protocols divide California into three areas.

  • More frequent surveying will be required with the potential for two wet season surveys (October through June) and one dry season survey. Previous survey guidelines required 14-day survey intervals. Now, most of the state must adhere to 7- or 10-day intervals.
  • Required dry season surveys may lead to identification of listed shrimp where suitable features (pools) don’t exist as may be deposited nearly anywhere due to wind, ducks, cattle, vehicles, or other factors. They could be found in areas that would never pond or stay hydrated long enough to support shrimp. Finding Branchinecta cysts may require an additional wet season survey, thus complicating the analysis and permitting process.

“There is a lot of nuance now so the protocol needs to be carefully read before conducting surveys,” Ortega said. “Project owners should talk with permitted biologists who have experience in the specific zone where their project is located.”

Key Points

  • 15-day pre-survey notification period is required with increased location information.
  • USFWS interactions include:
    • authorization is required before conducting surveys
    • agency must be notified within 10 working days if listed fairy shrimp is documented at a previously undocumented site.
    • surveys at preserves with USFWS-approved monitoring plans (and fairy shrimp surveying) do not require agency approval as long as surveys adhere to what the relevant plan requires.
  • A complete survey includes one wet season and one dry season survey within a three-year period. The order is not important. This is significant because a dry season survey was not required under the old protocol. Dry season surveys often result in the detection of cysts – regardless of the suitability of the features they are found in. These cysts may not actually be viable or ever be in a situation that would allow them to hatch, grow and produce viable offspring.
  • Surveys must still be conducted if feature holds greater than 3cm of water 24 hours after a rain event.
  • Survey requirements unique to each zone include:
    • Zone A requires surveys every 14 days for a 90-day period, and reinitiated within 14 days after drying and re-inundating during a wet season.
    • Zone B requires surveys at 10-day intervals for a 90-day period, and reinitiated within 10 days after drying and refilling.
    • Zone C requires surveys at 7-day intervals for a 120-day period, and reinitiated within 7 days after drying and refilling.
  • If the USFWS determines the wet season to not be suitable, then they may require an additional wet season survey. Biologists must clearly state whether the conditions were suitable for surveying during that season).
  • USFWS may request another year of wet season surveys if the dry season survey finds fairy shrimp, but the wet season survey does not.

Dry Season Surveys

Dry season surveys must be conducted by a biologist with this allowance in their permit. Also, hydrating cysts to grow them out (culture them) can only be done by a biologist with this allowance on their permit.

  • When Branchinecta cysts are found during dry season surveys:
    • Hydrate and culture to maturity, or
    • Send to appropriate facility for DNA analysis
    • Or, potentially conduct another wet season survey
  • Methods for physical sampling and voucher specimens have been refined and are discussed in great detail.
  • Reports are still due within 90 days of the survey (wet or dry).
  • Information must also be submitted to California Department of Fish and Wildlife

For more information, contact Brock Ortega at