Alewife Population

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Alewife Population Assessment and Aquaculture

David Berlinsky, Associate Professor of Zoology, UNH (603.862.0007, david.berlinsky@unh.edu)

Smelt and river herring (including alewives and blueback herring) comprise the most dominant anadromous species in the Great Bay Estuary system and support a limited but important fishery. However, river herring populations have exhibited drastic declines throughout much of their range and are considered a "species of concern."

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fisheries Management Plan for shad and river herring calls for states to close recreational and commercial river herring fisheries, with an exception for those that can demonstrate sustainable fisheries. In N.H., management decisions for alewives are based on the number of spawning adults that ascend the fish ladders in the Exeter, Cocheco, Lamprey and Oyster rivers during their spawning migration. This assessment does not take into consideration adults that spawn downstream of the ladders and those that ascend rivers without fish ladders. This population may be large and contribute significantly to the assessment. Berlinsky will use a series of tagging studies and sampling for juvenile and adult alewives to examine the accuracy of current alewife population assessment methods in the estuary and develop improvements to the population estimates where needed. His research will also focus on establishing a methodology for alewife aquaculture to enhance their stocks and to support the marine baitfish industry.

A series of outreach materials and hands-on workshops will be created to explain alewife husbandry techniques to interested entrepreneurs, fishermen and state biologists. In addition, results from this research will provide fisheries managers with suggested improvements to river herring population assessments in efforts to keep the river herring fisheries open in N.H.

Read our news story about Berlinsky's research.

We also produced a video about Berlinsky's research.