Herring count dips ... again, local conservation group seeks answers

Jul 9, 2018

The number of river herring recorded in the Mattapoisett River is at a 13-year-low, according to a preservation monitoring group.

Alewives Anonymous in a letter sent out to the Rochester Board of Selectmen on July 8, disclosed that the river herring population has dropped 65 percent since last year. Just 5,241 herring were counted at monitoring spots in Rochester and Mattapoisett in 2018.

Last year, there were 18,540 herring on local spawning waters. Overall, it’s another notch downward in a four-year population plunge.

With a statewide moratorium on possessing, selling, and catching herring, observers say it’s not clear why the species has been a steadily dropping year after year.

“The Mattapoisett River should be much better than it is,” Art Benner, president of Alewives Anonymous, said. “We just don’t where the problem lies.”

From low river waters to fishermen making accidental catches to lacking federal regulations offshore, some officials in recent years have drawn different theories on why the population has fallen.

But Benner hopes to get an official explanation from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Since Alewives Anonymous started electronically recording herring populations in 1989, there have been various spikes and dips within the Mattapoisett River. This is the second deepest dip within that timeline.

Over the years, there have been some counting errors due to weather and river conditions. However, counting conditions were nearly perfect this year, Benner said.