Na­tive Species Re­turn to Spawn­ing Grounds Af­ter 200 Years

Saltwater Sportsman - - Tod / Casts + Blasts -

Alewife and blue­back her­ring in Mas­sachusetts are re­turn­ing to their na­tive spawn­ing grounds af­ter nearly two cen­turies.

The once-abun­dant pop­u­la­tions of these for­age fish reached his­tor­i­cal lows in re­cent years due to habi­tat degra­da­tion, over­fish­ing, and se­verely re­duced ac­cess to spawn­ing habi­tat. But the re­cent re­moval of the Tack Fac­tory Dam and the restora­tion of sev­eral miles of ideal spawn­ing habi­tat, thanks to ef­forts by the North and South Rivers Water­shed As­so­ci­a­tion and the Mas­sachusetts Bays Na­tional Es­tu­ary Pro­gram, have now en­abled those fish to ac­cess 86 per­cent of that habi­tat.

Re­moval of the Tack Fac­tory Dam on Third Her­ring Brook, the di­vid­ing line be­tween Hanover and Nor­well, had been in the works since 2002, and the $420,000 pro­ject was funded by a com­bi­na­tion of fed­eral and state grants, pri­vate foun­da­tions, and in­di­vid­ual con­tri­bu­tions.

The first known dam on this site was built back in 1677 to pro­vide power for milling grain and saw­ing lum­ber in a thriv­ing ship­build­ing town. In 1834, the dam was re­built by the founders of a tack fac­tory that served the shoe in­dus­try un­til the mid-20th cen­tury.

This dam, most re­cently owned by the Car­di­nal Cush­ing Cen­ters, was one of four his­toric ob­sta­cles on Third Her­ring Brook. The YMCA re­moved one up­stream in 2014, and NSRWA has plans to re­move Peter­son Dam far­ther up­stream. The fourth, Ja­cobs Pond Dam, will likely not be re­moved, but a fish lad­der may be in­stalled to al­low mi­grat­ing fish to ac­cess the 59-acre pond of the same name.

With a com­mon goal of re­turn­ing fish mi­gra­tion to Third Her­ring Brook, NOAA Restora­tion Cen­ter part­nered with the Mas­sachusetts Divi­sion of Eco­log­i­cal Restora­tion, NSRWA, Con­ser­va­tion Law Foun­da­tion, Trout Un­lim­ited, YMCA, and dam own­ers at the Car­di­nal Cush­ing Cen­ters to bring know-how, fund­ing and vol­un­teers to­gether to make a dif­fer­ence, not just for the fish but also for coastal com­mu­ni­ties, in­creas­ing wet­land habi­tat that helps buf­fer storms and floods and is con­ducive to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of pop­u­lar game fish species that en­cour­age out­door recre­ation and at­tract busi­ness and tourism.

There are more than 3,000 dams in Mas­sachusetts, and only 200 of those serve any modern pur­pose, yet they seg­ment wildlife habi­tats by mak­ing it dif­fi­cult, or im­pos­si­ble, for fish to move far­ther up­stream to spawn. Re­mov­ing these old dams re­stores rivers to their orig­i­nal free-flow­ing state, open­ing up much-needed spawn­ing habi­tat for for­age species and help­ing the recovery of once-boun­ti­ful At­lantic fish­eries.

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