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Herring homecoming 2-25-16

Herring homecoming
Westport Shorelines
by Bruce Burdett

February 25, 2016

Volunteers and heavy equipment were back at "herring ditch" Thursday working to clear the way for the annual upstream herring run into Cockeast Pond.

The repairs, organized by the town fish commissioners, were meant to pull aside rocks left behind by the herring run's retreating banks and to slightly deepen places where the run has filled in.

Fish Commissioner Everett Mills said the work is well worth the time and efforts since the ditch is an important part of Westport's fishing history. Herring were once abundant here — there were enough of them that he and other lobstermen could fill up a bait barrel in no time. It has been a long time since it was legal to catch herring and now Mr. Mills and others are trying to help the diminished
population recover.

"This is quite a unique spot and well worth saving," he said. "It is one of the last natural herring runs — this is a historic restoration."

Providing the muscle, at no charge, was the Bristol County
Mosquito Control Project which sent a wide tracked digger designed to tread gently on fragile marshland. Working its way upstream from the harbor entrance, the machine scooped rocks and tucked them beneath the eroded herring run's banks.

Changes in the run are evident in the few years since it
was cleared out. It has widened and is growing wider by the
year. "If you walk along the edge, it would fall right out from under — there's nothing underneath," Mr. Mills said.
He agrees with others, among them Westport Fishermen President Jack Reynolds, who believe elevated nitrogen levels throughout the area are to blame. Marsh grasses, they say, don't need to put down the deep roots that knit the marsh together since nitrogen is available right at surface levels.

They have also expressed concern about the thick green algae slime that clogs the run during warm weather. When the waterway is clear, herring still use it to head into Cockeast Pond to spawn. He was heartened late last
spring to watch a big school of "drop-backs" (adult herring
that had just laid their eggs) swarming back down the herring run to the sea.

This latest work is a temporary fix, Mr. Mills believes, since he expects the banks will keep eroding until nitrogen levels are stabilized. He is hoping to raise funds for a second stabilization phase — 10 to 12-inch soilfilled "logs wrapped in a biodegradable mesh and seeded with native spartina grass.

Anyone wishing to donate to the work can send a check earmarked for the herring ditch project to the Westport River Watershed Alliance or Westport Fishermen's Association Mr. Mills said a number of groups and individuals supported last week's effort. In addition to the WRWA and Fishermen's Association, he mentioned Brad Chase of the Division of Marine Fisheries, Steve Burns of the Bristol County Mosquito Control Project, as well as the WestportConservation Commission,Westport Land Conservation
Trust and Spindle Rock Trust.

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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