HERRING RUN FESTIVAL: Almost as many ecologists as fish expected at Town Brook Saturday 4-23-15

HERRING RUN FESTIVAL: Almost as many ecologists as fish expected at Town Brook Saturday

More than 150,000 guests are expected at this weekend's celebration on Town Brook, but parking won't be an issue.

Wicked Local Plymouth

By Frank Mand
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Posted Apr. 22, 2015 at 4:00 PM

PLYMOUTH – More than 150,000 guests are expected at this weekend's celebration on Town Brook, but parking won't be an issue.
That's because these guests will arrive by water, stay in the water, and then quickly swim upstream to their ancestral spawning grounds.
It's the second annual Herring Run Festival, a partnership of the Plimoth Grist Mill, the town and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in recognition of the annual return of the herring and the removal of the Plymco Dam.
When the Pilgrims arrived nearly 400 years ago, they found Town Brook teeming with an estimated 1 million river herring. Over the next 200 years industrious Plymoutheans erected one dam after another on the brook, harnessing its water to power mills that ground corn, planed wood and forged iron.
By the 20th century Town Brook's herring run was down to a trickle, with most of the fish unable to reach their spawning grounds in the waters in and around Billington Sea. And, over the years, the dams responsible, like many in the state, began to deteriorate, putting lives and property at risk.
At the same time, ocean-side communities like Plymouth saw the dwindling herring and alewife populations affect their fishing industry.
In the late 1990s, Plymouth began the permitting process and in 2002 became the first town in the state to remove a dam - the Billington Street dam – for the purpose of supporting "andromanous" fish. And since then, there have been many more improvements to the free flow of the brook.
If you were a fish moving upstream from the mouth of the brook in Plymouth Harbor, you'd note first that the new culvert under Water Street allows for fish passage 24/7 (instead of just a few hours a day); that as it winds through Brewster Garden the brook's channel has been restored; that passing under Main Street Extension a variety of stormwater improvements have been put in place; that the fishways at the Plimoth Grist Mill and Newfield Street have been restored; and finally that the Billington Street Dam, the Off Billington Street Dam and, just this spring, the Plymco Dam have all been removed.
For the herring, it's all been good. Humans, however, are interested in the bottom line. Is there an economic rationale for making it easier for these fish to spawn?
NOAA Gulf of Maine Habitation Restoration Coordinator Eric Hutchins ("just call me a fisheries habitat specialist") says yes, yes and yes, again.
"Putting my local hat on," Hutchins said, "independent of the concerns for the fish, there are dual drivers for this work. First, these dams and the infrastructure associated with them are crumbling as we speak."

If the dams were to experience a sudden catastrophic failure, valuable property would be damaged and lives put at risk. And yet very few communities are confronting this head on.
"I see it over and over again, town's just kicking the can down the road," Hutchins said. "But David (Plymouth's Director of Marine & Environmental Management David Gould) and the town have taken the bull by the horn."
So, removing the dams and other infrastructure avoided an economic disaster. And, on the other hand, improving the ability of river herring to navigate Town Brook and reach their spawning grounds could have a ripple effect on the town's fishing industry.
"Plymouth has an active recreational fishing fleet, along with commercial draggers, lobstermen and a significant whale-watching fleet," Hutchins said. "Those three industries on the waterfront have an ecological link to the species the work on Town Brook is helping to restore."
A third economic driver to the work, according to Hutchins, is tourism.
"They had what was only their second herring festival in Middleboro last week," he explained, "and they drew something like 7,000 people. Here in Plymouth, with the Grist Mill and the brook and the trail, you could really see a great turnout."
That's what organizers are hoping for.
Plymouth's Herring Run Festival will take place over two days, and include walking tours of the brook, live acoustic music, special interpretive talks by Plimoth Plantation staff, plus demonstrations of corn milling, fishnet making and alewife fishing.
Visitors will also be able to help local environmentalists count the herring as they swim upstream and to attend the formal dedication ceremony celebrating the recent removal of the Plymco dam.
Among the organizations that contributed funds and expertise to the Plymco Dam removal project were NOAA, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Conservation Law Foundation, American Rivers, the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, The Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, the Plymouth Department of Marine & Environmental Management, Restore America's Estuaries, The Gulf of Maine Council, Mass. Development, Marine Fisheries of Massachusetts, the Community Preservation Act and Plimoth Plantation.
For more information visit
Follow Frank Mand on Twitter @frankmandOCM.

From Forum

Herring Public Forum Exemption to Wetland Act for herring protection
DaveC > 25-July-2016

Herring Run Counts 2015 Herring Counts
DaveC > 25-July-2016

Herring Management Town Brook alewives get a free ride to Billington Sea
KnightofNi > 29-April-2016

Herring Public Forum River Herring Migration Series at WHOI
KnightofNi > 30-April-2015

Eels Fines Increased for Herring Poaching
Jones River > 15-April-2015

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