The 2017 volunteer herring count was completed in June and we can now reveal the results! River herring are migratory fish that need to be able to move up coastal rivers on their annual spawning run in the spring. There are far fewer herring returning to the Ipswich River (and many others) than were historically. The problems are dams that block fish, a lack of water in the summer when fish are trying to return to the ocean and commercial fishing.
The purpose of the volunteer count is to collect valuable information about the health of the herring population, in order to plan restoration efforts. We want to restore a healthy herring run, because herring are an important part of the food web between the river and the ocean and were once a major part of the culture and economy of this and many other coastal regions. Thirty-one volunteers performed an incredible 223 counts from April 1st to June 10th (excepting a week in early April when we had to stop counting because high river flows prevented us from opening the counting box!). During that time, volunteers spotted 24 herring while performing ten minute counts at the top of the fish ladder on the Ipswich Mills Dam. A run size of 563 was estimated using a specially designed computer program. By contrast, the Ipswich River supported millions of herring when there were no dams and the river was in a natural state.
This was the 19th year of the herring count, made possible only through the dedication and commitment of the many volunteers who take part. We are always looking for help for this and other river monitoring programs, so please consider volunteering for the river! Contact Ryan for more information on program openings or to learn more.
Featured image: Lindsey Williams, one of many volunteers who contribute to river restoration by taking part in the herring count each spring, stands by the Ipswich Mills Dam fish ladder.