Adopt-A-Herring Home

Since 2006, Holly Frank, Dr. Martha Mather, and Joe Smith of the USGS Massachusetts Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (MA CFWRU is a collaboration between UMass Amherst, MA Division of Marine Fisheries, USGS, and the Wildlife Management Institute), Dr. Michael Armstrong and Kristen Ferry of The MA Division of Marine Fisheries, Dr. John Finn and Dr. Robert Muth of the UMass Amherst Natural Resources Conservation Department, and Dr. Linda Deegan of the Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole, MA) Plum Island Long Term Ecological Research Site have been studying river herring populations in the Ipswich River (located in northeastern Massachusetts).

This website describes the research we are doing regarding river herring restoration, presents an opportunity for interested individuals, organizations, and schools to be involved in river herring restoration efforts, and provides information about our efforts to examine their behavior and habitat use using radiotelemetry.

What we know:

River Herring (the collective name for two closely related and jointly managedspecies, Alewife and Blueback Herring) are anadromous fishes important historically, culturally, and ecologically. A moratorium on harvest and possession is currently in place in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, North Carolina, and the inland waters of Virginia, as populations of river herring have experienced recent severe declines. Additionally, in 2006 NOAA listed river herring as a species of concern, Stocking programs, which transfer fish from productive rivers to depleted ones and have been used for over a century, have never been evaluated scientifically.

What we don’t know:

Do the transported river herring remain in the river they are stocked to, or do they leave? If they spawn in the river, can we identify and protect the spawning habitat? If they leave, is it because of the transport and stocking process, or because they know they are not in their home river? Are juveniles surviving and leaving the system successfully?

Our research:                                    

In spring 2007, we radio-tagged river herring collected from the Nemasket River (in the Taunton River watershed, southeastern Massachusetts) and tracked their movements in the Ipswich River  with stationary and manual receivers, or "listening posts" located throughout

the river. The movements of these stocked fish will be compared to movements of fish naturally homing to the Ipswich River, which were tagged during their upstream migration. We will be collecting habitat information this spring and comparing it to habitat information collected last summer. We also sampled for juvenile river herring in the summer and fall.

How can you help?   

We are grateful to everyone that helped our research by adopting a fish. If you are curious to see where the fish went in the river, you can use the Where's My Fish? or Friends of the Herring links. There are multiple ways you can help the river herring! Click on Get Involved to find out what you can do to help restore river herring in your area.