2nd Annual Meeting of the River Herring Network - Thursday October 25, 2012

Second Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts River Herring Network

Thursday October 25 2:00PM-5:00PM

Bourne Veteran's Memorial Community Center, 239 Main St. Buzzards Bay, MA



Welcome & Introductions


River Herring and the Endangered Species Act

Sarah Laporte, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, Protected Resources Division


The Acushnet River restoration project: A test pilot case study for future restoration projects in Massachusetts

John Sheppard, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries


NOAA Restoration Center Funding Opportunities

Eric Hutchins, NOAA Restoration Center




The Future of the River Herring Network - Breakout Session facilitated by Jeff Hughes, Wellfleet Herring Warden & Abby Franklin, Cape Cod Conservation District


Design and Operation of Fish Ladders

Dick Quinn, US Fish and Wildlife, retired


Quantifying the Bycatch of River Herring in the Atlantic Herring Fishery

Brad Schondelmeier, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries


Wrap up & Adjourn


All are invited to stay until 5:30PM for pizza dinner and further conversation



River Herring Bycatch in the Atlantic Herring Fishery will be discussed at the next New England Fishery Management Council meeting on September 26, 2012 in Plymouth

River Herring Bycatch in the Atlantic Herring Fishery will be discussed at the next New England Fishery Management Council meeting on September 26, 2012 in Plymouth

On Wednesday, September 26 at 10:45AM in Plymouth the New England Fishery Management Council will be discussing the issue of river herring bycatch in the Atlantic Herring Fishery. The agenda for the meeting, and the link to register to listen on line can be found at the Council's website

As you may have heard, during the June 2012 New England Fishery Management Council meeting in Portland, Maine the Council voted on several management measures that will affect river herring at sea. The Council is in the midst of preparing Amendment 5 to the Atlantic Herring Management Plan for implementation. River herring are being discussed because they are caught as bycatch in the Atlantic Herring fishery. Atlantic herring are a related species, but they complete their life cycle within salt water – they do not migrate into freshwater rivers like blueback and alewife herring (aka river herring) do. Atlantic herring and river herring are often schooling near each other in the ocean.

To determine how much river herring are being caught, the Council voted to require that all fishing vessels that fish for Atlantic Herring will be required to have a fisheries observer on board on every trip. The observer will examine the catch as it comes up and will quantify the amount of river herring.

The Council also voted in favor of launching a two-phase bycatch avoidance program similar to programs used in other fisheries. This program would be developed by a fishing industry group, the Sustainable Fisheries Coalition, working cooperatively with UMASS Dartmouth's School for Marine and Science Technology and theMassachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. The goal is to help vessels targeting Atlantic herring avoid fishing in areas that contain large quantities of river herring. For more information about the program check out the website

Back in April of 2011 some local fishermen and a couple of environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that asked NMFS to consider more protections for river herring. The court issued an order in August 2012 (see link more details requiring that NMFS take action. At this point, it is unclear whether the management measures in Amendment 5 will satisfy the court order. This is one of the items the Council will be discussing on September 26.



Late Summer River Herring Network Workshop - September 13

River Herring Network – Late Summer Workshop

Thursday September 13, 2012 5:30-7:30PM

Bourne Veteran's Memorial Community Center - 239 Main St. Buzzards Bay


5:30PM Welcome, Introductions, and Updates

5:45PM How to Create a River Herring Sustainable Fishery Plan

Brad Chase, MA Division of Marine Fisheries will explain the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's 2009 requirement to develop and submit a 'sustainable fishery plan' before a herring run can be opened for harvest. He will give examples of plans that have been approved for nearby states, and discuss the types of information that towns could be collecting now to prepare for opening harvest in the future.

6:15PM Mini Management Talks

Jeff Hughes (Town of Wellfleet Herring Warden) and others will give a series of short 5-10 minute presentations on topics of management interest, with time for questions and discussion afterwards.

6:45PM Pizza and Discussion



Have you ever wondered what a herring warden does in the Fall?

After Labor Day and the mass exodus of people from Cape Cod, the juvenile river herring, also known as fry start their downstream journey from the ponds they have called home for the past 2 or 3 months to salt marsh embayments and then eventually to the open ocean.

As Wellfleet's Herring Warden, I start preparing for this movement of fish in early August. I'll take you for a tour as I go on my rounds. I start at the "Sluice way" between Gull and Higgins ponds. A quick look allows me to see the water level and gage the ability for the fry to oscillate from one pond to the other. There is a flow but a bit less than the fish need to move around. That will require a bit of sand manipulation. The 80 foot long stretch is easily changed into a passable flow but digging 1 shovel deep and 2 shovels wide. If we get rain soon I won't need to do much there until later in the season, my actions here for now will be weather permitting and can wait for now.

The next spot is "Patience Brook" - one of my favorite places to hang out. It is named for the woman (Patience Gibbs) who kept a flow of water through this connection between Herring and Higgins ponds back in the 1800's. I first thought the name was derived from the slow but steady flow of water passing by.The brook is narrow and shallow allowing for the same type of simple maintenance as the sluice way, but the Brook is a little more complicated. It has a lot of trees and shrubs along the banks and a small culvert right smack dab in the middle of the 200 foot length. The Brook occasionally dries up on the downstream side of the culvert stopping the ability of the fry to move into the pond that allows access to the Herring River itself. And that is the case today - dry for about 12 feet. A good rain will also cause a flow here much like the sluice way. Maybe the weather will take care of this as well.

My third and final stop for the day is where Herring Pond flows into a shallow narrow area that at maximum is about 18 inches deep but is usually only 3-9 inches deep most of the year. This is the beginning of the Herring River, but I call this area the "Herring Brook". With boots on and clam rake in hand I begin walking the brook. I move some of the debris from the Brook's bottom to the side and sometimes up and over the embankment. This is difficult work between the briars and a very limited area to place the debris. This work will allow a good flow of water when we do get rain.

The citizens of Wellfleet have made many changes to this 1/8 mile long area. It was hand dug by the Freeman family back around 1700 and given to the town for the Alewife run (Belding 1920). The Brook was dug out much like a follow the dots picture, except the Freemans used the fresh water springs that were numerous in the area as they directed the water to what at that time was a tidal harbor up to what is now State Highway Route 6. Now tidal salt water only reaches a little bit beyond the Herring River dike that was constructed across the mouth of the river in 1908.

About half way down the Brook I stop at the Old Kings Highway culvert. This is the area where we conduct our spring herring counts. It's a very pleasant place to spend some time even when you are wrestling the wall of briars like I did this day. This one area from the culvert to the power lines some 300 feet or so has the steepest slope of the river. In dry years I have to make a bunch of rock weirs to allow for an acceptable flow of water for the fry to pass through to the marsh.

I spent three and a half hours today clearing briars, and it will take another 4 or 5 to complete the task. Clearing this area will allow me to make the rock weirs if they needed of course.

Next week I should be out of the brook and into the marsh.

Jeff Hughes, Town of Wellfleet Herring Warden