Connecticut River Coordinator's Office
Northeast Region
 
Painting of a blueback herring - Credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Painting of a blueback herring. Credit: USFWS

Blueback herring are an integral species in the Connecticut River watershed food web. Hundreds of thousands of these fish were once observed in the river as early as a decade ago, supporting larger populations of important game fish like striped bass and thereby protecting smaller prey like salmon smolts. The herring population has declined dramatically, and is now down to only a couple of hundred herring observed at the Holyoke dam in 2004.

Neither State nor Federal resource management agencies have had the considerable means necessary to identify the cause of this population decline. However, the agencies have taken some action, like fish passage and adult transfers in an attempt to arrest the decline and retain a valuable recreational fishery.

Accomplishments

Fishery Management Plan

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has a This link opens in a new windowfishery management plan for river herring. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader software to open this document. If you do not have this software, you may obtain it free of charge by following this link.

In 2004, the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission revised their river-specific Management Plan for River Herring.

Herring Transfers and Assessment

In 2005 and 2006, there were no blueback herring transferred within the basin because the number of returns was so low.

Photo of Service employee releasing a blueback herring. Credit: USFWS
Photo of Service employee releasing a blueback herring. Credit: USFWS


A biologist releases blueback herring captured in the Chicopee River in Massachusetts into the Ashelot River in New Hampshire to restore the population

Research

In 2006, the USFWS provided researchers from the University of Massachusetts and MA Division of Marine Fisheries with telemetry equipment to enable their research into spawning behavior and habitat use by transferred herring in the Ipswich River. The hope is that results can be applied to the Connecticut River watershed when the study is completed.

The USFWS also provided researchers at the University of Connecticut with an electrofishing boat to facilitate investigation of river herring populations in the Connecticut River including assessment of population structure, life history, and the importance of in-river predation. The 2006 study will continue in 2007.

Herring Genetics

The USFWS worked with the USGS to develop a Science Support Project to fund baseline herring genetic assessment in the laboratory in 2007. The two-year study will look at herring populations in the mainstem Connecticut River and compare them to populations in the Mohawk River (NY) and the Oyster River (NH).

The U.S. Geological Survey's Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center worked with the Connecticut River Coordinator's Office and the University of Connecticut in both 2005 and 2006 to ensure sampling of blueback herring for baseline genetic assessment. UCONN collected 100 blueback herring tissue samples for the ongoing baseline genetic characterization from herring captured in the mainstem Connecticut River. These samples will help researchers understand the impact of the existing, profound depression in the herring population on future generations.

Herring Habitat

The following projects were completed in 2005; they received partial funding through the Connecticut River Coordinator’s Office:

Nod Brook Culvert Retrofit in Avon, CT

  • Lead-Farmington River Watershed Association, CTDEP, USFWS

  • Added pre-cast concrete baffles to one 85’ twin box culvert at the Route 10 crossing and installed a low-flow lip inside the other culvert to direct flow through the culvert with baffles during low flow

  • Opened 1.5 miles of stream for alewife and resident fish



 

 
Last updated: September 6, 2010
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