River herring populations have been declining in coastal streams for a variety of factors including an inability to get to their spawning grounds due to dams or non-operational fish ladders. These fish provide a crucial link in the coastal food chain, as a source of food for striped bass, blue fish, osprey, herons and other coastal species.
Because of these sharp declines, we have made it our role to help determine if they are continuing to decline or are on a trajectory of improvement. The NSRWA has been counting herring with volunteers since 2010, and now have had consistent counts at four locations (First Herring Brook, Scituate; South River, Marshfield; Herring Brook, Pembroke; and Third Herring Brook; Norwell and Hanover) since 2012.
Every year the NSRWA recruits dozens of volunteers to help count herring throughout the watershed, and our herring counts have become a much anticipated start to our monitoring season and a harbinger of spring. Our volunteers are crucial for documenting the populations of herring in different parts of the watershed, which helps verify and validate restoration projects and provide a record of herring status that can be compared and contrasted with similar data along the Massachusetts coast and beyond.
Every year, we work with over 100 volunteers to complete the number of counts needed to provide valid data. We need so many volunteers because the protocol we follow from Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries calls for 6-9 10-minute counts at each location, each day. That means that in a week we need a minimum of 168 counts (6 counts x 7 days x 4 locations) and ideally 252 counts (9 counts x 7 days x 45 locations) – you can see how quickly our need adds up!
The most common volunteer commitment is 2 counts per week (although we encourage counting as many days as you can), so we need (roughly) 85-125 volunteers to meet our data requirements.
That is why we need you! If you have participated in our counts before, we want you back! If you are new, we would love to have you join in the fun. We will be offering trainings throughout March – you can sign up here to attend. If you are an experienced counter, you can sign up for your timeslots now here and we will get back to you with your final assignment.
Thank you for helping the herring!