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River herring introduced to new Pawtuxet home 4-30-25

River herring introduced to new Pawtuxet home
Meri R. Kennedy

Warwick Beacon

Warwick Beacon photos by Steve Popiel
RETURN TO THE WILD: Gary Brayman from DEM with a net of herring ready to be introduced into the Pawtuxet River. Adult herring introduced in prior years are expected to return to the river in 2016 if not this year.

For centuries, until the removal of the Pawtuxet Falls dam in 2011, anadromous fish such as herring and shad were effectively blocked from accessing their natural spawning habitats.

Herring and shad are key species to marine fisheries and freshwater ecosystems, providing food for bluefish, striped bass, largemouth bass, as well as herons, ospreys and bald eagles that are returning to the area. The Pawtuxet River empties into Narragansett Bay.

On April 29, DEM and minimum-security inmates released 1,000 herring to the Pawtuxet River during the morning hours. All the fish were caught in Connecticut.

"Beginning in spring of 2012, the RI Department of Environmental Management [DEM] began a multi-year stocking program on the lower Pawtuxet for both river herring and American shad to help re-establish these annual migratory fish runs from Narragansett Bay," said Rita Holahan, Treasurer of the Pawtuxet River Authority (PRA). "This fish stocking program is sponsored by RIDEM and US Fish & Wildlife, with logistical support from the Pawtuxet River Authority & Watershed Council. The fish stocking access point is at the PRA's Pontiac Canoe Launch." The point person on for site logistics for the stocking program was Mike Maddalena from the PRA Board.

This program is in its fourth year and expected to continue for several more seasons.

"This will continue next year as long as we can get the fish," said Alan Libby, Rhode Island Principal Fish Biologist and author of "Inland Fishes of RI." Libby's main project is to document fish population throughout the state.

To date, 7,000 herring and more than five million shad fry have been delivered to the lower Pawtuxet River and subsequent sample testing indicates spawning success with both juvenile river herring and shad species in the river prior to the out migration season.

A volunteer fish count monitoring program was initiated this year by RI DEM and Pawtuxet River Authority with expectation that they should begin to see adults returning to river in 2016 if not this year.

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