As spring (slowly) descends on the New England Region, it is an exciting time of year – if you are a herring! This anadromous fish (a species that lives in the sea but must enter fresh water to spawn) plays an important role in coastal and marine ecosystems. They are forage fish: schooling fish that occupy the crucial midpoint of the ocean food web, consuming plankton before being eaten by other animals (generally the kind we like to eat such as cod, striped bass, tuna etc.)
For many years, herring have been disappearing from the East Coast because of dams, habitat degradation, and in-river overfishing, threats that have been aggressively addressed through ongoing efforts by states, by the federal government, and by stakeholders. In the past two decades, however, another threat has emerged: unintentional catch, or bycatch, of river herring by vessels fishing for other species in the ocean. Last spring we covered this important topic in an Ocean Watch Essay, which you still be read by clicking here. Below is an update on what you can do to help this important species, which is currently being examined as to whether or not it will be listed on the endangered species list.
- Volunteer to count fish! You can do this in Cohasset, MA with the Cohasset Center for Student Coastal Research by contacting Jack Buckley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In Mystic, CT count herring with the Mystic River Watershed Association.
- Take action with recommendations from the River Herring Alliance.
- Eat Sustainable Seafood, bycatch is a big problem for these important fish so eating seafood that is caught in a manner that reduces bycatch makes a big difference! Learn what types of fish are sustainable from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and connect to fishermen near you through Local Catch.
If you know of more places to volunteer and count river herring, please list them in the comments below!