Herring Count

The history of the Marstons Mills herring run dates back to the 1705, when it was used as a fishery. It was not until 1846 that the town of Barnstable began to regulate fisheries to preserve the herring. This required the removal of obstacles obstructing the run, along with regulations on the herring harvest. In 2005, the Atlantic State’s Marine Fisheries Commissions prohibited the complete harvesting of herring in Massachusetts unless the state can prove the waters to be sustainable for the yield.

The Marstons Mills herring run starts in Sandwich, travels through various ponds, and opens up into Mill Pond. Each year, the alewife and blueback herring will travel from the ocean back to the pond where they were born and spawn. The adolescent herring will then spend the next 3 to 4 years of their lives in the ocean until they develop the strength themselves to migrate back to their “home”. The Marstons Mills herring run’s current purpose is to recreate the hurdles that these anadromous herring require to travel. The ladders inserted in the stream require the herring to jump and struggle, an instinct that this species holds.

The herring count for the Marstons Mills herring run began in 2006. In 2012, Three Bays Preservation, Inc. adopted the project and has organized volunteers for the count. The counting of herring begins between the end of March and beginning of April, lasting until there are 2 days in a row when no herring are recorded. This time period ends up lasting about 4 to 6 weeks after the counting begins. The year of 2012 has been the largest recorded year for this run with 87,308 herring, and was followed by 2013 with a low count of 56,987. It is usual for a high-count year to be followed by a low-count year because the herring migration runs in a 3 to 4 year cycle, resulting in the migrations of herring to vary.


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