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Reason to celebrate: Herring are back in force on the river 4-10-14

Reason to celebrate: Herring are back in force on the river

By JANE LOPES
Middleboro Gazette
Editor
April 10, 2014 11:06 AM

MIDDLEBORO — Nothing could have been timlier than Herring Fisheries Commission Chairman David Cavanaugh's annual report to the selectmen Monday night.

The town's most famous seasonal visitors are just now finding their way in large numbers from Narragansett Bay up the Taunton River system to Assawompsett Pond, their summer spawning ground. And this weekend, area residents will celebrate their return with a three-day Herring Festival (see today's Leisure section for details).

There is plenty to celebrate this year, Mr. Cavanaugh told the selectmen, since the numbers of migrating herring were estimated last year at 850,000, indicating the largest herring run in New England has returned to, and perhaps now exceeds, the numbers of fish that moved through the Middleboro-Lakeville fish ladders prior to 2005.

"We have seen the numbers rise over the last several years," Mr. Cavanaugh said, since the state and subsequently the Atlantic States Commission declared a moratorium on catching herring because the numbers had declined so dramatically, Local observers were reporting annual counts in the 300,000-400,000 range.

Mr. Cavanaugh explained that the commission and its volunteer fish wardens and observers are responsible for ensuring that regulations are followed, and for educating the public and the visitors to the herring runs about the history of the fish and their breeding methods.

The commission also works with private and public agencies on research and restocking programs, maintains the fish ladders and the general habitat for the herring, and works with the cities of New Bedford and Taunton to ensure that water levels are sufficient for the spring migration and the return of the herring fry to the sea in the fall as well as keeping a count of the fish.

Mr. Cavanaugh said the commission will have a table at Oliver Mill Park during the herring festival this weekend and will be providing information on the fish runs.

Mr. Cavanaugh said the commission has petitioned the state marine fisheries division about reopening the herring runs for fishing. While the Middleboro-Lakeville runs are owned by the town while all others are state-owned, the local fisheries commission has enforced the moratorium that extended up and down the east coast from 2005 until the runs in Main and New York were recently reopened.

"The state will have to prove (to the Atlantic States Commission) there is a sustainable return (from spawning grounds) if the runs open," Mr. Cavanaugh said. "We believe we can prove that for our run. They could reopen entire states or just specific runs."

The three Middleboro-Lakeville runs — at Oliver Mill, the Wareham Street dam and Assawompsett Pond — are the only fish ladders in the Taunton River system.

From Forum

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