Text Size: A  A  A

Chesapeake Bay News

Mar
02
2017

Photo of the Week: Migrating river herring face upstream struggle

A school of alewife spawn in the calm shallows where Deer Creek meets the Susquehanna River in Susquehanna State Park in Havre de Grace, Maryland, on April 16, 2015.

Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and their close relative blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis) are collectively known as "river herring." The two can be difficult to distinguish from one another—both are thin, silver-sided fish, each with a single dark spot located behind its head. Alewife, however, can be distinguished by their bronze-green backs, whereas the aptly named blueback has a blue-colored back.

River herring are anadromous: they spend their adult lives at sea, returning to freshwater areas only to spawn in the spring. The small fish serve as important prey for larger predators like striped bass and bluefish. They also once served as one of the largest fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay; in 1931, over 25 million pounds of river herring were harvested from the estuary.

But the destruction of spawning habitat, the constructions of dams restricting migration and increased fishing pressure led to a major decline in river herring abundance. In 2006, commercial catch of river herring for the entire Atlantic coast totaled just 823,000 pounds. By 2012, Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River had harvest moratoriums for river herring in place, as did many other states along the East Coast.

To restore herring to the Chesapeake Bay, experts like the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Fish Passage Workgroup are helping to remove barriers such as dams and culverts where they block waterways and prevent river herring from migrating. Where structures are unable to be removed, fish ladders and lifts help fish get over or around larger barriers.

Learn more about alewife, or learn about the Chesapeake Bay Program’s work to open the region’s streams to the migration of fish.

Image by Will Parson

author
About Stephanie Smith - Stephanie is the Web Content Manager at the Chesapeake Bay Program. A native of the Midwest, she received her Bachelor’s in Professional Writing from Purdue University and Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. Stephanie’s lifelong love of nature motivates her to explore solutions to environmental problems and teach others what they can do to help.


Comments:

There are no comments for this entry yet.

Post A Comment:






Categories

Archives

410 Severn Avenue / Suite 112
Annapolis, Maryland 21403
Tel: (800) YOUR-BAY / Fax: (410) 267-5777
Directions to the Bay Program Office
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
©2012 Chesapeake Bay Program | All Rights Reserved