For the past five years, a dedicated group of volunteers coordinated by the Harwich Conservation Trust (HCT) has been watching for, and counting, the herring that journey from Nantucket Sound up the Herring River and into Hinckley’s Pond.
More than 60 HCT volunteers spent this spring carefully cataloguing the number of herring they observed passing a certain point on the Herring River during pre-determined 10-minute intervals. This information is vital in helping the state estimate the relative number of river herring in order to evaluate population health and, hopefully, recover a once thriving fishery.
Several years ago, the rapidly declining herring population resulted in the state Division of Marine Fisheries declaring a moratorium on the taking, possession, and sale of herring in Massachusetts. The information gathered by HCT’s volunteer herring counters is crucial to increasing the understanding of river herring population dynamics and reversing their decline. With increased knowledge, herring habitats ranging from the sea to stream to spawning ponds can also be better protected. Hopefully, unsustainable off-shore fishing practices can also be changed through future policy initiatives.
The herring counting season was scheduled to run until June 1st, but unfortunately due to vandalism at the counting site, the project prematurely ended on Tuesday, May 28th. The materials stolen from the site were of minor financial value, but nonetheless important items for tracking and counting herring. If you have any information regarding the vandalism at the site, please contact the Harwich Police Department.