The 2016 count of herring in the Mattapoisett River was 18,540. This year was the second year of declines, and a significant decrease of fish from the 2015 total of 42,332 and the 2014 total of 55,429 which was a 156% increase over 2013. Evidence of herring being present at Mattapoisett (gulls, cormorants, seals) was not observed nor were they seen during any of the brush and tree clearing activities in the river during the spring. Counting conditions were ideal this spring, and the counter appears to have functioned without errors.
A counter was also installed on the Sippican River at Leonard’s Pond this year. It recorded 1,126 fish. It has been a few years that herring have not been able to get into Leonard’s Pond. We are hoping that there was a lot of Sippican River herring that stayed in Hathaway’s Pond and spawned there and over the next few years will again become accustomed to continuing further up the river to Leonard’s Pond. We have not received any information from the Buzzards Bay Coalition on the results of the herring counter they operate at Hathaway’s Pond to compare with the numbers we have.
The moratorium against the taking or possession of herring from the Mattapoisett River and the Sippican River, as well as many other rivers in Massachusetts, remains in effect. Over the years that the moratorium has been in effect, the herring population in the Mattapoisett River has increased from about 6,000 to just over 55,400 in 2014. The counting effort will provide the necessary information to manage a future harvest in the Mattapoisett River; however, continued improvements in the counts are needed to support a sustainable fishery plan and to justify an opening. Once the herring population reaches a point where a sustainable harvest plan can be formulated, filed with Division of Marine Fisheries, and approved, harvesting could be resumed.