By Ramona Krogman
Spring has arrived again. The peepers are calling from small ponds. The last snow flurries are fading into our memories of winter. It’s time to count herring!
The counts from herring runs across Massachusetts were exceptionally low in 2021. The chart included here was part of a presentation the Herring Network by Brad Chase, biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. There are 40 count locations in Massachusetts with volunteer visual counters. Approximately 12 locations have electronic or video counters. Our herring run is labeled Monument River. The electronic count near the canal was 93,000 herring. From 85 visual observations near Great Herring pond calculations yielded 40,000 – 16,000 fish.
The decrease may be due to a number of factors. Theories range from a backlash due to recent droughts, restriction of the runs by log falls or invasive plant species, or a natural variation in fish populations. River herring populations have been rebounding since the ban on harvesting went into effect, but it has not been a continuous increase. Counts dropped down in 2017 when there was a cold snap late in the spring and increased dramatically in 2019.
This year’s count will provide essential information about the condition of our run. We will be generating data to determine if the herring are returning in larger numbers. The visual count numbers combined with the electronic counter data will help the Division of Marine Fisheries to justify resources to study these important species.
To those who counted last year, please join us again. For those who have never counted, we welcome you to the team. Counts take 10 minutes. We count 7 days a week, from 7:00 am through 7:00 pm from April 1 through May 31. The best times to see herring are usually the early mornings and late evening runs. Counters select a day and time block and count any 10 minutes within that block. Counters gather data on the number of fish observed, the water temperature, weather conditions, and other observations. The more counts the better the data. You can join the count after April 1st. We can use your help anytime during the run.
If you would like to join the count, please contact me at email@example.com or text to 781-820-9290.