*** River Herring Moratorium ***
> summary of volunteer river herring counting workshop
> river herring volunteer counting datasheet
The notched weir-pool fishway
by the Sandwich Grist Mill
The Anadromous Fish Dynamics and Management Program is responsible
for the management and investigations regarding the anadromous
fish resources of the Commonwealth. Anadromous fish live in
the sea but must enter fresh water rivers and streams to spawn.
Massachusetts coastal systems support 16 species of anadromous
fish. Species such as the rainbow smelt, American shad and
river herring (alewives and blueback herring) play an important
role in the recreational and commercial fisheries, therefore,
program efforts tend to concentrate on these four. They are
not only targeted by active fisheries but also serve as an
important food source for the high-ranking predators such
as striped bass and bluefish.
River herring are actually two closely related migratory
species, the alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and the
blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis). The alewife is
the most abundant anadromous fish in the Commonwealth. The
blueback herring are often confused with alewives by the untrained
observer. Because their life cycles are very similar and their
spawning migrations into coastal streams overlap, we have
traditionally managed the taking of alewives and bluebacks
as a single fishery.
Project Leader Phil Brady
standing next to a Denil Fishway at Maple Park in Wareham
MarineFisheries has broad legal authority within the
Commonwealth to provide suitable passage for anadromous fish
coming into fresh water to spawn. Our authority includes seizing
and removing, at the expense of the owner, all illegal obstructions
to fish passage. We also have authority to examine dams and
other obstructions to passage in brooks, rivers, and streams,
which flow into coastal waters to decide if fishways are needed
and determining whether existing fishways are suitable and
sufficient for the passage of fish.
We also staff a fishway construction crew, fish stocking
equipment and a highly trained staff of anadromous fish biologists.
After over 50 years of effort, Massachusetts has nearly 150
active fish passageways. More than any other coastal state
in the nation.
The emphasis of our work today is on fishway maintenance,
reconstruction and replacement of fishway passage facilities
with more advanced designs. Stocking fish is also an important
component of our work. When we have gained access to a spawning
area either through ladder construction or some other means,
we stock the new site with adult herring collected from a
well-established population. The offspring of these fish will
imprint on the new spawning grounds and return as mature adults
in three to five years. To maintain a continuity of year classes,
we typically carry on stocking in a single system for four
or five consecutive years. This process of creating and enhancing
Massachusetts' river herring populations has had a long history
of success and has been used as a model for restoration programs
in several other states.
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In 1984, MarineFisheries established a new feature,
Anadromous Fish Dynamics Program, to the Anadromous Fish Restoration
Project to help in the biological assessment and evaluation
of anadromous fish populations. Since then, we have sampled
many systems to determine the approximate numbers of alewives
and bluebacks, their size composition, age and sex ratios.
Such estimates are a basic part of the development of fish
stock assessment policies. Of the approximate 100 herring
runs in Massachusetts, populations may vary in size from a
few thousand to over a million individuals.
While MarineFisheries continues to address passage
obstructions and degraded water quality, new problems have
arisen which we must deal with to ensure the continuation
of our existing anadromous fish populations. One such problem
occurs primarily on Cape Cod where sandy soils combined with
shoreline development and beach nourishment have contributed
to a deposition of sand in the outlets of many spawning area
ponds. During low water years, pond levels may drop below
the outlet elevation trapping juvenile herring in the pond
and delaying or preventing downstream migration.
A second concern is the increasing number of requests for
water withdrawal permits either from surface water bodies
or from wells close to anadromous fish habitats. Stream withdrawals
may create migration barriers within the stream by lowering
water levels and may also draw in and trap fish at the intake.
Withdrawals from spawning areas can also reduce productivity
by decreasing the spawning area available.
Conflicts between anadromous fish and agriculture operations
have occurred historically and persist today. Agricultural
impacts include blockage of passage, diversion of stream flow,
entrapment and stranding of juveniles. Solutions to these
problems should be attainable with the cooperation of the
industry. MarineFisheries is currently working with
farming associations to develop the best management practices,
which will eliminate many of these problems.