Researchers Examine Drop in Herring Population 5-7-14

Researchers Examine Drop in Herring Population
May 7th, 2014
ABC 40

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WGGB) — Researchers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are trying to figure out what's causing a massive drop in the local blueback herring population. This morning, they went into the Chicopee River looking for answers.

"In the 1980s and early 1990s, we passed as many as 600,000 blueback herring in the Holyoke Dam, last year we passed under 1,000," says Ken Sprankle, Connecticut River Coordinator for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Today, they plan to bring 30 fish back to the lab.

"We actually need to get out to sample, as we're doing today, to get our hands on some information," says Sprankle. "What we're trying to do is determine the population status and trends."

Using a special boat that sends out electrical currents, Sprankle and his team stunned the fish swimming near the boat, allowing them to float to the surface and into their nets.

"We get fish on-board, we can identify the species, get data on length, weight," says Sprankle. "We'll take a sub-sample of the fish back to our laboratory where we'll take structures out of their skull so that we can age them — it's very important for us to determine the age structure of the population."

Once the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determines why there are so few herring in the Connecticut River region, they can figure out how to boost their numbers. Sprankle says these fish play a key role in keeping the Connecticut River healthy.

"It's a win-win situation for both of us because what we're doing is helping to keep the Connecticut River, as a watershed, clean and bring back fish," says Jennifer Lapis, public relations for U.S. Fish and Wildlife. "Also for people to enjoy it."

The team will collect data from thousands of blueback herring throughout the Connecticut river from April through June.

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