On April 1st, MyRWA launched the second year of the Herring Monitoring Program. Volunteers count river herring as they pass through the fish ladder at the Upper Mystic Lake Dam in Medford. This data is used to estimate the total herring run size in the Mystic River and shared with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to help inform trends across the State.
WHAT IS A HERRING?
A herring is a type of fish. The Mystic River Watershed supports two species of herring: Alewife (Alosa psuedoharenous) and Blueback Herring (Alosa aestivalis). Both species, collectively called river herring, are anadromous. This means they spend most of their lives at sea and return to rivers—like the Mystic—to spawn, or lay their eggs. Click the picture below for ID information.
WHY MONITOR RIVER HERRING?
In colonial times and earlier, herring in the Mystic River were extraordinarily abundant. But from the 1900’s until today a much smaller population of river herring is present. Since the dam has been rebuilt this is the first time that a fish ladder will be in place to allow an accurate count of herring.
According to the Herring Alliance some river herring runs on the Atlantic Coast have declined by 95% or more over the past 20 years. In 2006 the National Marine Fisheries Service designated river herring as a species of concern. Population decline may be associated with numerous factors including by-catch, habitat loss and degradation, water pollution, poaching, access to spawning habitat, and natural predators.
WHAT IS MyRWA DOING?
The Herring Monitoring Program will monitor herring swimming through a fish ladder to estimate run size. Counting will occur from April 1 – mid June following the Division of Marine Fisheries protocol.
The goal of the herring monitoring program is to collect valuable data about herring populations as they make their way up the Mystic River to reach their native spawning grounds and to educate the public about river herring. We hope that through participation, volunteers will increase their understanding and stewardship of the Mystic River and the watershed.
MyRWA closed the 2012 Herring Monitoring season, counting 21,052 herring from April 1 through June 23, 2012. Using modeling software provided by the Division of Marine Fisheries, the Mystic River herring run was estimated to be 198,932 +/- 18,062 herring. Volunteers monitored river herring at the Mystic Lakes Dam fish ladder, counting fish and collecting data to estimate run size in the Mystic River. Previously the dam prevented river herring from reaching their native spawning grounds. In the past, a bucket brigade was assembled to hoist the fish over the dam. Thanks to the Upper Mystic Lake Dam Rehabilitation project, a new fish ladder allows passage for river herring.
MyRWA also monitors American Eel (Anguilla rostrata) passing through the Mystic Lakes Dam. Eels are collected in buckets, counted then returned to the Upper Lake. American Eel are catadromous fish, leaving their habitat to spawn in the Atlantic Ocean.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Volunteer to be a fish monitor! No previous experience or knowledge is required. To find out more about this volunteer opportunity or the project, please email: email@example.com.
This program would not be possible without the support and collaboration with: