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Mystic Lakes river herring project announced 11-21-16

Mystic Lakes river herring project announced
Posted Nov 21, 2016 at 1:05 PM
Updated Nov 21, 2016 at 1:05 PM
Wicked Local Arlington

Thousands of area youth will be able to watch river herring migrate up and through the Mystic Lakes thanks to a new project to be launched by the Mystic River Watershed Association. Funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Education grant, MyRWA will design and install a video system with underwater cameras and a web interface that enables students to monitor a major fish migration and participate in fish counts.

Annually, an estimated half a million river herring swim 7 miles up the Mystic River from the sea, past some of the most densely populated land in the U.S., to spawn, largely out of sight and unknown to local residents. River herring — which refers to both alewife (Alosa psuedoharenous) and blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis) — are important forage fish in marine ecosystems that have experienced dramatic population declines in recent decades due to overharvesting, loss of freshwater habitat and other factors. The Mystic River hosts the second largest herring run in the state.

"The herring migration is a largely hidden spring ritual that serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of protecting our local rivers. We are so excited because this new program with video enables people to connect to the herring and play a role as citizen scientists," said Patrick Herron, executive director of the Mystic River Watershed Association.

The program builds off of the success and popularity of MyRWA's herring monitoring program in which 100 trained volunteers perform a visual count of river herring at the fish ladder at the Upper Mystic Lake dam. In 2016 the total estimated Mystic River herring run was 448,060, plus or minus 48,113.

Currently, MyRWA is working to install two underwater video cameras — one at the Upper Mystic Lake Dam in Medford, and the second at the fish ladder in Winchester Center — with help from project partner, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. Website visitors will be encouraged to count herring via short video clips and submit their data. The data will inform estimates and behavior during the herring migration, and will be presented in an online interactive display.

Beginning in spring 2017, MyRWA will work with teachers in East Boston, Medford, Melrose, Somerville, Wakefield and Winchester to develop curriculum around herring, environmental science and the Mystic River that will be housed on the new webpage. Students will learn about herring in the classroom and take field trips to the dams to witness the migration first-hand and participate in stewardship activities.

For more information, visit MysticRiver.org.

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