2017 Alewives Anonymous Herring Counts

The results of the 2017 alewives (herring) migration as recorded by an electronic fish counter on the Mattapoisett River at Snipatuit Pond and the Sippican River at Leonard’s Pond in Rochester have been completed.

This year’s count of herring in the Mattapoisett River was 14,938. 2017 was the third year of declines since the recovery of the herring population in 2014 to 55,429 from the low of 5,000 in 2004. Few herring were observed at the Mattapoisett ladder area, 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; 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 115 fish, much lower than the 2016 total of 1,126. The counter that the Buzzards Bay Coalition operated at the Hathaway Pond Dam recorded 315 herring.

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.

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