River Herring

River herring migrating upstream. Photo credit: Tim & Doug Watts

River herring migrating upstream. Photo credit: Tim & Doug Watts

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.

A fairly long fish ladder used by river herring to "step up" around the dam. Photo by Herring Alliance.

A fairly long fish ladder used by river herring to “step up” around the dam. Photo by Herring Alliance.

What can you do?

If you know of more places to volunteer and count river herring, please list them in the comments below!

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