The importance of our river herring


To the Editor:

Over the past decade there has been declines in river herring. The decline has been alarmingly noticeable, therefore in 2004 the closure of the river herring fishery within Rhode Island inland waters was implemented. At the time there was no clear understanding for these declines in returning alewife and blueback herring. Many thought it was predatory increase or over-fishing by anglers, and lobster fisherman.

Since the closures were implemented there has been monitoring of many of these river systems, collecting data on the number of fish returning each year to spawn. Many of these rivers and streams are also being monitored for water quality information as well. There have been many notable and costly restoration projects, such as dam removals, habitat restoration, fish ladder installations, and repairs to existing ladders. Some organizations even put together groups of volunteers that work diligently to lift hundreds of thousands of herring over dams where no passage exist.

Over the better part of the past decade, not one of our rivers are showing any sign that the herring are returning to their original stock status despite all the efforts made thus far.

Alewife and blueback herring are one of the most important parts of the ecosystem of the ocean. They help to provide a balanced diet for so many species, like striped bass. Now there are concerns of diseased striped bass being detected with micro bacteriosis. It is being considered due to malnourishment. Osprey, Bald Eagles, once endangered have now got to compete for the few returning herring to sustain themselves and their hatchlings.

In our inland waters the annual herring runs once teaming hundreds of thousands of fish would bring people to observe this amazing sight, or to take as many as 12 fish on a limited number of days as bait. Fisherman would bring along their young children so they could also experience such an amazing event of nature. Many areas once realized economic growth due to the herring runs because of visitors from all over who came to witness the event, or from anglers purchasing supplies, bait and tackle. However those boom days are gone now, which is especially sad considering the overall economic downturn.

The commitment from land will continue, however there is only so much that can be accomplished from land. River herring only spend a very short portion of their life within our inland waters. This is why we need to address the bigger picture in our ocean waters especially within three miles of coastlines. I encourage you to attend the New England Fishery Management Council March 28th 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Hilton Garden Inn located at one Thurber St. off Jefferson Boulevard.

Paul Earnshaw
Buckeye Brook Coalition


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