Herring Count Volunteers Making a Difference for the Ipswich River

The Ipswich River Watershed Association began our 16th annual herring count on April 1st, 2014. The count takes place at the Ipswich Mills dam fish ladder located in downtown Ipswich MA. We are fortunate to have many dedicated volunteers count for 10-minute shifts throughout the day until the beginning of June. As of April 10th, we have not seen any herring, but the water temperature is reaching the point we expect to see the first fish.
At one time, the Ipswich River experienced runs of millions of herring, shad, salmon, striped bass, and other ocean fish that swam as far upstream as Wilmington to spawn every spring. Native Americans called the river Agawam, meaning "place where fishes of passage resorted," a testament to the rich fish populations it once supported. In 2013, we only observed 33 individual herring and we estimated the total run size (including fish we did not see) to be less than 1,000 fish. Today, dams, low flows caused by water withdrawals and the transformation of traditional spawning habitat into water supply reservoirs prevent herring from thriving in the river. As disappointing as these numbers are, it is just as important to document the absence of river herring as it will be, someday, to document their return.
We want to restore the river's vitality– an enormous task – and documenting the herring population is a critical step in this process. Other critical steps in the process include removing dams, which no longer have a practical function, and controlling the amount of water local water systems remove from the river.
The Ipswich River has the potential to host a thriving herring population and fishery once again. Other rivers on the north shore like the Parker River have seen modest gains in recent years, so there is hope! As an important part of the food web, a healthy herring population would be very beneficial to the ecology of the river.
To learn more about our herring count and the other work we do, please visit our website at

Ryan O’Donnell

Programs Coordinator

Ipswich River Watershed Association

April 10, 2014


Middleboro Herring Festival April 12&13

The Town of Middleboro is holding their first ever Herring Festival at Oliver Mill Park on Saturday and Sunday April 12 & 13!

Check out the following links for more information:


NOAA NMFS creating a River Herring Technical Expert Working Group

NOAA Fisheries, to follow up on their August 9, 2013 determination that a threatened or endangered listing under the ESA is not warranted at this time, is beginning work on a conservation plan for the two species.  The first step is to convene a 'Technical Expert Working Group' composed of researchers and managers from the entire geographic range of the species.

The first meeting of this group will be held on March 27, 2014.  The main goal is to set up the structure of the TEWG, but the meeting is open to the public and there is time on the agenda to accept public comment.  Check out the website below for updates:

Abigail Franklin Archer


Do you want to serve on the River Herring and Shad Advisory Panel?

The Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council is accepting applications for the new River Herring and Shad Advisory Panel.

Applications are due by midnight on February 28th.  Application Instruction Are HERE

The Council is soliciting applications from qualified individuals to serve on its newly-formed river herring and shad advisory panel (AP). Advisors will assist in the development of management measures to support the conservation of river herring (alewives and blueback) and shad (American and hickory) populations.

A first-ever incidental catch cap for river herring and shad catch in the Atlantic mackerel fishery will be implemented in early this year. A Council River Herring and Shad Committee will oversee efforts to improve the information about how the catch cap should be set. The committee will also investigate other opportunities for the Council to engage in river herring and shad conservation. The advisory panel will provide stakeholder input to the Committee and the Council on these and other river herring and shad issues.

Members of the Council's eight advisory panels include commercial and recreational fishermen, dealers and processors, non-governmental organizations, scientists, and members of the public. Most of the Council's advisory panels meet 2-3 times per year. Members are compensated for travel and per diem expenses for all meetings. All interested stakeholders are encouraged to apply.