APCC and the Mass Bays Program work with many volunteers and partners to carry out herring monitoring on Cape Cod. Their dedicated work has resulted in the Cape having the largest number of volunteer herring monitoring programs in the Commonwealth.
Bound Brook Herring Monitors,
Brewster Alewife Committee
Brewster Conservation Trust
Barnstable County Coastal Resources Committee
Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association
Cedar Lake Herring Monitors, Falmouth Coonamessett River Herring Monitors, Falmouth Friends of Herring River, Wellfleet
Harwich Conservation Trust
Jones River Watershed Association, Kingston
Mashpee Herring Monitors, Mashpee
Massachusetts Bays Program
North and South Rivers Watershed Association
Orleans Shellfish and Waterways Advisory Committee
Orleans Herring Monitors, Orleans
Sandwich Herring Monitors, Sandwich
Sandwich Senior Environment Corps, Cape Cod
Cape Cod Stony Brook Herring Monitors, Brewster
Brewster Red Brook Herring Monitors, Bourne
Bourne River Herring Warden Network
Natural resource managers in the following towns:
Town of Bourne
Town of Brewster
Town of Dennis
Town of Falmouth
Town of Harwich
Town of Mashpee
Town of Orleans
Town of Sandwich
Town of Wellfleet
Cape Cod Conservation Distric
/MA Division of Marine Fisheries
NOAA Restoration Center
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
River herring are a crucial link in the coastal food chain. During the spring and summer, many fish and wildlife species eat herring as the herring migrate to their spawning areas. In the ocean, herring also fill an important niche.
River herring are also keystone species; that is, species whose health and well-being reflects the overall state of the coastal ecosystem. They reflect watershed problems, such as man-made alteration of the natural hydrology, and water pollution.
River herring have an important role in the history and coastal economy of Cape Cod and other coastal communities from the Mid-Atlantic region up through New England. Coastal towns with herring runs counted on the annual spring herring migration to harvest fish for food and sale.
River herring populations have been declining in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast coastal regions for several decades, particularly from the late ‘90s on. Because of their decline, from 2005 there has been a moratorium on taking or catching any river herring. In 2011, a petition to list them as endangered was submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The decline in river herring is symptomatic of environmental problems that are impacting other fish, wildlife and whole ecosystems. Reasons for their decline include:
Climate change and the resulting changes in precipitation, seasonality and water temperature may impact future generations of herring.
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Despite their importance, population estimates of river herring were few and far between. Only a few rivers in Massachusetts had electronic fish counters installed. Electronic fish counters are expensive and require maintenance. Another way of estimating the population of river herring is to estimate the size of the annual spring migration along a specific run, that is, the run size. The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries or DMF developed a very easy method that volunteers can use to count herring to estimate run size.
Before 2007, there were three herring monitoring programs on Cape Cod: Marstons Mills River in Barnstable, Coonamessett River and Trunk River in Falmouth.
In 2007, APCC started working with coastal communities and agencies to encourage monitoring of herring runs to foster restoration and protection of the fish and their habitat. APCC staff work with many partners (organizations and town natural resource staff) to provide training, technical support and equipment (as budget allows). In 2011, state and federal fisheries agencies such as NOAA and DMF began working closely with coastal communities, the Mass Bays Program and with APCC to encourage monitoring. As of 2012, APCC has helped to get volunteer herring monitoring programs underway along the following herring runs:
Most of the herring runs where monitoring is done by volunteers are runs where restoration is either being planned or has been completed. For more information on our Volunteer Monitoring Program, contact Dr. Jo Ann Muramoto at firstname.lastname@example.org or (508) 362-4226 ext. 16.
Success in fish run restoration is measured in terms of naturalizing stream flow and hydrology and making it easier for fish to migrate into and out of their spawning areas. This should translate into more fish able to spawn, and eventually increased fish populations. Volunteer monitoring has helped to demonstrate the success of completed restoration efforts along these runs:
For runs where restoration is planned, our volunteer count program is helping to determine the baseline population present before restoration.
The 2012 herring count season promises to be one of the strongest herring run years since the program started in 2007, based on preliminary results. Results will be posted in early November—Stay tuned!