What We Do

River Herring populations had declined sharply in the early 2000s. As a result, in 2006 the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries implemented a ban on the harvest of herring. While the harvest ban was intended to reduce one stress on these fish they still faced a series of threats including drought, changing climate, shifts in predation, and an inability to get to their spawning grounds due to dams or non-operational fish ladders. Herring are a crucial link in the coastal food chain, as a source of food for striped bass, bluefish, osprey, herons and other coastal species. Following the harvest ban many rivers saw increasing numbers from 2012 to 2019.  Unfortunately, declining and unstable runs were seen from 2020 to 2022.  In 2023 many runs bounced back strongly, include Herring Brook in Pembroke!

To help combat these problems, the North and South Rivers Watershed Association and MassBays National Estuary Partnership is seeking volunteers from the end of March through the end of May to count herring.  The counting will be done seven days a week, six to nine times a day, at seven different locations. These counts will help us continue to monitor trends in our local herring population. We will also be able to verify that herring can now pass dam removal sites on Third Herring Brook and Bound Brook.


2023 Raw Counts (& Peak Count in Last 10 Years)

Bound Brook – 0 (4 – 2020)
First Herring Brook – 0 (40 – 2021)
Third Herring Brook Tack Factory – 19 (345 – 2020)
South River – 4 (80 – 2012)
Herring Brook – 6,248 (10,984 – 2019)
Tidmarsh #1 – 0 (22 – 2022)
Tidmarsh #2 – 251 (251 – 2023)



In 2023, volunteer counts rebounded strongly at the most successful run, Herring Brook in Pembroke. This site is monitored by volunteers as well as an electronic counter. Based on the electronic counter data, Herring Brook was the largest run in the state with 570,000 fish passing up the ladder.

Herring count sites

Our volunteers count river herring at six locations to track herring populations. Volunteers are needed that can commit to doing 10 minute counts, ideally several times a week, during a specific time period, at one of the sites. The sites are:

  • Bound Brook, North Scituate – site of a 2017 dam removal, herring have only just started to return in small numbers.
  • First Herring Brook, Scituate – with flows controlled by the Town of Scituate, this site has low numbers but is crucial for informing upstream restoration.
  • Jacobs Pond, Third Herring Brook, Norwell/Hanover – with all the dams downstream removed, we are hoping to install a fish ladder and need to know if there are fish making it all the way upstream.
  • Third Herring Brook, Norwell/Hanover (Actual counting site to be determined soon) – after 3 dam removals and recent removal of 3 weirs, we are excited to see fish in expanded portions of the brook.
  • South River, Marshfield – site of future fish passage restoration and the first of multiple project sites on the South River
  • Herring Brook, Pembroke – historically the highest population of herring in the watershed, it is a crucial site for tracking trends.

The time slots will be between 7 am and 7 pm.

We are seeking herring counters NOW –  Sign up to volunteer.

Are you a current volunteer that needs a datasheet?