River herring (Alosa pseudoharengus) are a keystone species thatconnect our communities on land with the ecosystems that we depend on in the sea. The Passamaquoddy name for river herring translates to “the fish that feeds all”. This appropriate name rightly describes their role in the food chain from juvenile to adult forms that travel back and forth from our communities to the open ocean up and down the coast.
River herring are managed at the federal and state level, but in Maine there is opportunity for towns and municipalities to form alewife committees as part of their town government and to manage recreational and commercial fisheries on the local community scale.
The fact that alewives return (or run) to their natal streams and ponds to spawn each year, provides the opportunity to monitor each run’s health over time and manage them sustainably and effectively. Unfortunately, state and Federal governments do not have the capacity to work at this community level. Fortunately towns do and they have cultural and economic connections to these ponds and fish runs, and local knowledge that is invaluable to collaborative management.
MCCF has embedded itself in the trenches of co-management with several of its neighboring towns along the Bagaduce River where we helped create the three-town Alewife Committee of Brooksville, Sedgwick and Penobscot. MCCF’s work with these communities has informed state and federal policy to empower and incentivize this type of local management.
Alewives show us our connection to the sea and they show us that in order to sustain our fisheries and fish forever, that we need to play the most important role.
River Herring Network
The River Herring Network, established in 2021, is a network of over 50 researchers, fishermen, managers (state/federal/tribal), and other stakeholders and is designed around the principal that we can all get farther, faster if we talk to each other, work with each other, and trust each other. The network has big goals around restoration, research, and sustainable management as well as the harvest of river herring and is a great example of MCCF’s collaborative work.
In 2022, MCCF and Manomet launched the River Herring Network website, which includes a toolbox for counting river herring, ways to get involved in river restoration efforts throughout New England, and other helpful resources. To learn more about the River Herring Network, visit www.gomriverherringnetwork.org.
A Watershed Moment
“A Watershed Moment” tells the story of an all-hands effort involving fishermen, three coastal Maine communities, non-profit organizations, and state and federal management agencies to restore fish passage throughout the entire Bagaduce River Watershed in Maine. These grass roots efforts to bring back a keystone species that has allowed fishing communities to thrive have been remarkably successful. An unlikely group of partners, the story of this partnership is rooted in collaboration and can act as a beacon of hope for other communities and watersheds involved in fish passage restoration and community-driven science and stewardship. This is a story about people, fish, and the water that connects them. Enjoy the 41-minute, short film.