Counting Herring in the Ipswich River
February 26th, 2013 | by Ryan
If you follow ocean fisheries related news in New England, you know about herring and their decline. But how are herring connected to the Ipswich River? Well, there are actually two classes of herring: Atlantic herring that live exclusively in the ocean and river herring (including Blueback herring and alewife) that swim up rivers to spawn in late spring. In 1600, river herring or alewife existed in the Ipswich River in the millions. Early dams blocked access to the river and by 1840 other migratory fish like Atlantic salmon, Shad and Sturgeon disappeared from the Ipswich, while river herring have barely held on with only a few hundred returning to spawn each year.
Besides dams, historic herring spawning lakes, such as Wenham Lake, have been transformed into water supply reservoirs; and chronic low-flow and no-flow periods caused by water supply withdrawals have all contributed to the decline of river herring. Also, large ocean trawlers targeting Atlantic herring unintentionally take river herring as bycatch. Stocks of river herring have declined more than 95% along the Atlantic coast and many states now have moratoriums on their harvesting. (more…)
The Fish in Your River
February 19th, 2013 | by Cynthia
Imagine the Ipswich River prior to development and the construction of dams; the river and its tributaries were free flowing, with abundant riffles and pools. The river supported diadromous (migrating between fresh and salt water) fish runs numbering in the millions. The river supported such fish as Alewife and Blueback herring, Rainbow smelt, Atlantic salmon, Striped bass, American shad, Sea Lamprey, sturgeon and American eel. In fact, the river’s original name, Agawam is a Native American term meaning “place where fishes of passage resorted” which is indicative of the prior abundance of migratory fish. The harvest of alewife (river herring) as far upstream as Wilmington was an important part of the local economy, and Wenham Lake, now a public water supply reservoir, was the most important alewife nursery in the region. (more…)
Herring Migration Documentaries
February 6th, 2013 | by Cynthia
Shervin A. Arya, an independent filmmaker focused on quality science-based films, is now creating three in-depth films exploring the natural history, latest science and conservation topics surrounding the River Herring migration in eastern Massachusetts.
The series presents a comprehensive picture of the natural history of the migration event, highlighting their dilemma and providing insights into the future of the species. Mr. Arya and his team are working to raise funds to cover basic production expenses only. All the labor is in-kind. More information on how to support this important project and a 5 minute video along with full details of the series may be viewed at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/imm/the-herring-migration-documentary-series
2012 Declared the hottest year ever!
January 15th, 2013 | by Wayne
As soon as I saw the photo below accompanying the recent front page article in the New York Times announcing that 2012 was the hottest year ever in the United States, I thought of the Ipswich River. As many of you know, we have used photos like this for years to highlight the low flow problems in the Ipswich River caused by human impact. As summarized in the article, climate change will negatively impact the river in many ways. Dramatic changes in rainfall patterns in the Ipswich River Watershed have caused both an increase in low flow periods caused by more frequent droughts as well as more flooding due to increased rainfall intensity, simply put – higher highs and lower lows. Heat causes an increased demand for water for lawns and other outdoor uses at a time when the river has the least amount of water to give. (more…)