By Ramona Krogman, Herring Count Coordinator
From April 1 through May 31, members of the Great Herring Pond herring counting team made their way to the small bridge on Sandy Pond Road to watch for fish. Counting took place between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm. Each count lasts for 10 minutes, after which the counter recorded the number of river herring observed moving into the pond, time, water temperature, air temperature, weather conditions and any interesting observations.
Count results are provided to John J. Sheppard at the Diadromous Fisheries Biology & Management Project, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. Physical counts at the entrance into Great Herring Pond are compared to an electronic counter which lies between the fish ladder leading off the Cape Cod Canal and the Monument/Herring River. Physical counts are evaluated using an algorithm to estimate the number of fish passing through to the pond based on the number actually observed. The algorithm assumes herring are moving unobserved at times.
To give an example of the numbers and calculations, here are the values from our count for 2021.
The count started on March 28 (a few days early). The count ended on May 31 with 59 days of counts accepted. Counters observed 201 herring. This number was evaluated with the algorithm to determine the herring likely to have passed into the pond. That was determined to be 17,076 to 23,147. This was compared to the electronic monitor which counted 117,075 herring. Please note that some river herring, particularly blue backs, stay in the Monument River to spawn. This count was much lower than the counts for 2019 which numbered closer to 500,000 fish. Counts were low again in 2022 across all counting locations on the South Shore and Cape Cod.
This year 279 herring where observed by our Great Herring Pond counters. We are awaiting the numbers from the electronic counter. One of our observers met a herring agent checking on the run. The agent said that counts were down for many runs again this year. Evaluations of the data will take place between now and September/October in an attempt to determine the significance of the decline.
Our largest single count occurred before 7:00 am. We may need to request counting hours be extended from dawn to dusk to capture the movement of herring in low light. All counts maintain the same dates and times to allow comparison of data. The Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries would have to support the change.
Deepest thanks to all our dedicated volunteer counters. You provided data needed to determine the health of a species that is a bell weather for the health of our waters.