A great victory for conservation was achieved in September, when the New England Fishery Management Council passed Amendment 8 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan. It creates a buffer area that extends out 12 miles from the shore, from Maine to Montauk Point, and it extends nearly 20 miles around Cape Cod. This area is closed to commercial mid-water trawlers throughout the year, and it will also reduce the harvest and define how catch limits will be set for critical forage species including Atlantic Herring. It is great news for the Long Island Sound ecosystem. It is also great news for river herring, Blueback Herring and Alewives, which are nearly indistinguishable from Atlantic herring when at sea, and are a by-catch of that fishery.
Since the mid-80s, river herring populations have crashed, despite the steady progress the CT DEEP and others have made in removing dams and adding fish ladders to other dams, to reclaim historic spawning habitat over the last 35 years.
The Middlesex Land Trust, working in partnership with USF&W, CT DEEP, TNC, the Town of Haddam, and the Haddam Land Trust, has actively protected open space around the PIne Brook in Haddam Neck and East Hampton, to protect spawning habitat for river herring. We have also participated in monitoring the stream for the past three years to improve our understanding of the herring runs for the CT DEEP, with the goal of improving our conservation efforts.
We protect open space on both sides of the Connecticut River that conserve our freshwater streams and the water that flows in them. The Matabesett and Coginchaug Rivers that flow through Middletown, also support herring runs and hold the potential for improved water quality and habitat access.
We are hopeful that this will set our river herring runs back on the road to recovery, and with their late-winter staging area off of Montauk and Block Island closed to heavy commercial fishing, we could begin to see an increase in their abundance as early as this coming spring. This could be a big boon to predatory populations of mammals, birds and fish that feed on river herring, from Long Island Sound, deep into inland Connecticut.