Friday, April 12, 2013

Brief History of the Herring Runs

Entrance to the park at the fish ladder
Since it's that time in the year when the herring are running I decide to give a little history about River Herring in Massachusetts.  In pre-colonial times, Native Americans in the southeastern part of Massachusetts planned their seasonal movement based on the spawning runs.  Tens of millions of herring coming up River were abundant source of protein and also utilized by the Native Americans as fertilizer for their corn.  The American colonist started harvesting the River herring in the 17th century, using it for food and then preserving and storing them for further consumption either at home or selling to domestic markets.

One of the problems that occurred with the arrival of the Europeans to the North American continent was the utilization of the small steep rivers with dams and waterwheels for manufacturing and other purposes.  There were laws enacted to require the dam owners to provide certain loop level of herring passage.  By around 1920 a survey of herring stocks found them almost completely depleted and David Belding initiated the program of building fish ladders at dams.  This program is continuing through today.

Starting in 2005 The Massachusetts Dept. of Marine Fisheries imposed a three-year ban on herring harvest, which has been continued to today to help increase the herring population.  The number of herring have been increasing, and the Middleborough-Lakeville Herring Fisheries Commission has been participating in a program of helping to restock rivers that had their herring population almost completely disappeared.  For three days, approximately 1000 herring per day are collected and released into those rivers.  This year, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts collected for one day and the state of Rhode Island collected for two days.
Fish ladder runs under the road

Fish ladder

Passageway under the road

Fish Ladder
Truck to transfer the herring
Catching the herring


Herring in the net

Transferring to the holding tank

On those days, school groups have come to learn about the herring run, and to participate in the collecting of the herring for the re-population efforts.  Dave Cavanaugh from the Middleborough-Lakeville Herring Fisheries Commission gives a little talk to the students.
Talking to the school group

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