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Examining River Herring Resource Use in Natural and Restored Estuaries in Massachusetts

Funding for this project was provided by MassBays to MIT Sea Grant (2016)

About the project

River herring play an important ecological and cultural role in Massachusetts. Over recent years management of river herring populations has become a priority for state and federal regulators. River herring are currently listed as a species of concern by NOAA Fisheries Service, citing the importance of developing a better understanding of habitat requirements. Recent petitions to list river herring under the Endangered Species Act resulted in a court decision to evaluate the coast-wide status of these populations, including habitat and resource requirements.

A project team led by MIT Sea Grant and including The Living Observatory, MA Division of Ecological Restoration, MA Division of Marine Fisheries, MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, NOAA, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the towns of Plymouth and Eastham conducted a comprehensive characterization of habitat preferences and resource use by Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) at three different river and pond systems including a restoration site (Tidmarsh Farms and Fresh Pond) lying between the Eel River/Plymouth Harbor and Ellisville Harbor embayments.

Restoring hydrologic connectivity and fish passage provides the opportunity to track river herring response to habitat restoration. Results will contribute to the northeast River Herring Technical Expert Work Group assessment of coast-wide status of river herring populations, habitat, and resource needs. The goal is to gather information to provide a better understanding for MassBays and other decision makers and will inform future stream restoration and herring habitat conservation efforts. A description of the methodology used, findings and recommendations are available in the study report:  R. Vincent (2019): River herring resource use in natural and restored Massachusetts estuaries. MIT Sea Grant College Program. Cambridge, MA.

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