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Herring Counts Reveal Strong Santuit Run, Dramatic Decrease in Johns Pond 9-4-15

Herring Counts Reveal Strong Santuit Run, Dramatic Decrease in Johns Pond

The Enterprise
Posted: Friday, September 4, 2015 11:43 am
SAM HOUGHTON

The number of herring that spawned in Santuit Pond this spring vastly improved from previous years, while Johns Pond numbers dwindled to a dismal low.
This year's herring run estimates were recently tallied by the state and were sent this week to volunteers and organizers that every year line up beside Mashpee's three fish ladders and count the herring traversing into ponds to spawn.
The number of herring in Mashpee River, one of the strongest in the state, dropped this year although not significantly. The estimated count was 206,863 down from 341,458 last year. An estimated 225,448 crossed in 2013; 226,754 in 2012; and 114,988 in 2011.
Last year's count at Mashpee River was the highest on Cape Cod, said Jo Ann Muramoto, a scientist with the Association to Preserve Cape Cod. The Association helps organize and collect count tallies from 15 of the 17 total counts on the Cape. "In terms of its functionality, Mashpee River is a very viable run," she said. This year's drop, she said, was not a significant enough decrease to raise a red flag because the numbers are in line with previous year's counts.
For Quashnet River, it is a different story. The count for the western most river in Mashpee was done at the Johns Pond fish ladder. The estimated count for this year is 14,256 compared with 40,854 last year and 37,453 in 2013, when the count began to be collected by APCC.
Dr. Muramoto said that herring have a difficult time crossing the ladder and that it could use improvements.
Mashpee Conservation agent Andrew R. McManus knows of the deficiencies and has sought multiple grants to improve the run. At an Environmental Oversight Committee meeting last month, he estimated improvements would cost $300,000.
Herring pool at the bottom of the ladder waiting to cross into Johns Pond. The runway is undersized and there are problems with sediment build-up at the top of the ladder, Mr. McManus said.
Santuit Pond numbers are encouraging and a testament to the improvements made at the ladder in 2013. An estimated 119,182 herring crossed compared with 20,620 last year. No count was taken in 2013 when the ladder was under construction and the APCC does not have records prior. The count is "a great number," Dr. Muramoto said. "It's a significant improvement."
She said the run was one of the most improved in the state and said that it is a sign that the new ladder has succeeded.
River herring are important to the coastal food web as they feed larger species such as osprey, striped bass and other recreational fish, birds and mammals.

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