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Sippican Week - Herring population down from 2012

Herring population down from 2012

Sippican Week
Rochester, MA
By Georgia Sparling | Jul 22, 2013

Rochester — Don't take out the fishing poles just yet. Although the local herring population is much stronger than it was 10 years ago, this year's numbers are down from 2012.

Alewives Anonymous, a Rochester group that counts the fish (which are also called alewives), recently released its the herring totals from this past spring.

Electric counters recorded that 21,613 herring entered Snipatuit Pond from the Mattapoisett River. That number is approximately 7,000 less than last year.

But Alewives Anonymous President Art Benner said last year's totals were unusually high – an increase of 121 percent from 2011.

The cause for last year's significant increase is unclear. Benner said environmental factors from three to four years ago can affect the present year's numbers.

"We're making some improvements with the numbers," he said. "We had such a big increase last year. We were certainly happy to see that."

He added: "Twenty-one thousand is still a good number, but we would have loved to see all the ones from last year get back."

According to Benner, herring numbers began to drop as early as the 1950s and 1960s, which prompted the creation of Alewives Anonymous.

Eight years ago the state put a ban on fishing herring.

"In 2000, the number had increased up to 130,000. From then on it was pretty much downhill by 50 percent every year until it was less than 5,000 in 2004," Benner said last year.

Alewives Anonymous has been counting fish with an electronic counter since 1989, and this year added a counter to Leonard's Pond, which feeds into the Sippican River. The last count at Leonard's Pond was taken in 2006.

Benner said the counter showed few if any herring went into the pond.

As for the conditions this year, Benner said they were ideal for counting the herring.

He also said there isn't much individuals in the tri-town area can do to help the population rise, except honoring the fishing ban.

"We're hoping things will improve again next year. We'll keep our fingers crossed," said Benner. "It's Mother Nature's will, whatever it is."

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