Herring count down once again 7-26-16

Herring count down once again

Posted Jul 26, 2016 at 10:40 AM
Updated Jul 26, 2016 at 10:40 AM

By Chris Reagle
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Wicked Local Marion

TRI-TOWNS – After a significant increase in herring counted in local spawning waters just two years ago, the herring population has taken a dip for a second year.

"This year's count of herring in the Mattapoisett River was 18,540," said Art Benner, president of Alewives Anonymous, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and increase of the alewife fishery resources in the Mattapoisett River and the Sippican River in the towns of Rochester, Marion and Mattapoisett. "2016 was the second year of declines, and a significant decrease of fish from the 2015 total of 42,332 and the 2014 total of 55,429, which was a 156 percent increase over 2013."

The herring, also called alewives, migration was recorded locally by electronic fish counters on the Mattapoisett River at Snipatuit Pond and the Sippican River at Leonard's Pond in Rochester.

Benner offered some ideas on what could have caused the declines, but said there is no hard evidence to accurately say what accounts for the decline in herring migration to local spawning waters.

"Evidence of herring being present at Mattapoisett, including gulls, cormorants, seals, was not observed nor were they seen during any of the brush and tree clearing activities in the river during the spring," Benner said. "Counting conditions were ideal this spring, the counter appears to have functioned without errors."

Benner said a counter was also installed on the Sippican River at Leonard's Pond this year.

"It recorded 1,126 fish," Benner said. "It has been a few years that herring have not been able to get into Leonard's pond. We are hoping that there was a lot of Sippican River herring that stayed in Hathaway's Pond and spawned there and over the next few years will again become accustomed to continuing further up the river to Leonard's Pond. We have not received any information from the Buzzards Bay Coalition on the results of the herring counter they operate at Hathaway's Pond to compare with the numbers we have."

Rochester Herring Inspector Dave Watling, Marion Herring Inspector Jim Gurney, and Mattapoisett Herring Inspector Robert Martin met with selectmen in all three towns last spring to update them on the herring situation but only offered preliminary figures. The herring inspectors and Alewives Anonymous often work together on tallying the herring count. AA, The Herring Helpers, is Alewives Anonymous Inc. and is also involved with monitoring the alewives population using electronic fish counting equipment and other efforts and projects to enhance their numbers and to improve their environment.

Benner said the moratorium on the taking or possession of herring from the Mattapoisett River and the Sippican River, as well as many other rivers in Massachusetts, remains in effect. Over the years that the moratorium has been in effect, the herring population in the Mattapoisett River has increased from about 6,000 to just over 55,400 in 2014. "The counting effort will provide the necessary information to manage a future harvest in the Mattapoisett River, however, continued improvements in the counts are needed to support a sustainable fishery plan and to justify an opening," Benner said. "Once the herring population reaches a point where a sustainable harvest plan can be formulated, filed with (the Massachusetts) Division of Marine Fisheries, and approved, harvesting could be resumed."

However, the question of what happened to once bountiful anadromous fish remains open. Biologist, environmentalists and sportsmen still seek answers.

"If anyone has info on how others rivers in Southeastern Massachusetts made out this year, I'd appreciate getting that info," Benner said.

Alewives Anonymous Inc. will maintain an information booth at the Rochester County Fair from Aug. 18 to Aug. 21. Benner encourages people to stop by the Pine Street fairgrounds to learn more and share any information they have.

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

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Jones River > 15-April-2015

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