Tri-town herring count numbers still dangerously low

Tri-town herring count numbers still dangerously low

By Chris Reagle
Wicked Local
Posted Aug 06, 2013 @ 06:00 AM


These apparently are not good times to be a herring.

Not only are the small silvery fish subject to natural predation and sought after as baitfish for fisherman, but the lowly alewife can't seem to replicate itself fast enough to keep up with the agents of its demise.

Not even a long standing ban on harvesting the sea-going herring as they return to breed and spawn in the rivers and ponds seems to be helping. The keepers of local herring data say not even more fish counters seems to have helped with getting the herring numbers upped in the Tri-town area.

This year's count for herring in the Mattapoisett River was 21,613, which is about 7,000 fish less than the 2012 total of 28,447, according to Alewives Anonymous Inc., a Rochester-based herring preservation organization. Alewives Anonymous' electronic fish counters on the Mattapoisett River at Snipatuit Pond and at Sippican River at Leonard's Pond, both of which are located in Rochester, is where the data was collected.

After not having an electronic fish counter on the Sippican River at Leonard's Pond since 2006, a counter was installed this year. A new aluminum Alaskan steel pass ladder has been installed. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) designed and fabricated a framework to support the counting tunnel, according to President of Alewives Anonymous Inc. Art Benner.

Benner said adjustments were made to the ladder to lower it to allow adequate flow of water if the pond's water level dropped. Even with the ladder to help the make passage, a scant 38 fish were counted at Leonard's Pond. Alewives Anonymous was not hopeful about that number.

"It is unlikely that any herring went into Leonard's Pond," Benner said.

The Buzzards Bay Coalition installed a fish counter at Hathaway Pond in the old existing fish ladder and recorded some fish, but the ladder had to be removed because it was too small to accommodate the herring counter and still provide adequate water flow, Benner said. A new Alaskan steep pass ladder installation at Hathaway Pond is expected to be installed by the end of this summer and ready for the 2014 early spring herring migration, he said.

Despite the somewhat dismal figures for the herring population in local rivers and ponds, the state DMF's ban on harvesting herring seems to be having a positive effect. During the eight years of the moratorium, the herring population in the Mattapoisett River has increased by almost 500 percent, Benner said. The ban has been extended through 2013.

"The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Committee, River Herring Amendment No. 2 provides that all (herring) runs are to be closed to harvesting, unless a plan for the sustainability of the fishery has been filed and approved," Benner said. "Massachusetts has not done this. This is statewide plan, not a river-to-river plan. It appears that it will be a long time before the taking of river herring in Massachusetts will be allowed. That should further help the herring population to rebuild."

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