From Millions To Dozens: Tough Times For River Herring In Connecticut River

A blueback herring. While showing signs of inland recovery in some areas, blueback herring and alewife are still a major focus for biologists and conservationists. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Millions of river herring used to return to New England’s fresh waterways to spawn, but at some collection spots today, populations have dropped into the dozens.

Blueback herring and alewife are the two species commonly called “river herring.”

“I often characterize them as the field mice of the ocean,” said Steve Gephard, a fisheries biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “Everything eats them. The ospreys. The eagles. The striped bass. The river otter.”

River herring live in the ocean, but return to freshwater to spawn. Populations spiked in the 1980s thanks to regional river restoration projects, but plummeted since then.

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