Published on June 4, 2021

Another Successful Herring Count Season at Tidmarsh

Volunteers counting herring from a bridge over the stream at Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary
Statewide Effort

Each spring in over 100 rivers across Massachusetts, adult river herring swim upstream in an annual migration from the ocean to their freshwater spawning grounds. And each spring, volunteers monitor these herring runs by counting the number of fish that pass through in a statewide effort to track their population. 

During April and May this year, 50 dedicated volunteers made their way to Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary every week—some multiple times a week—to conduct herring counts. 

Early Stages of Restoration

The sanctuary's Herring Count Project is still in its infancy. Our newest counting location is in its first year of monitoring, while the oldest is just in its fifth. Since both of these streams are newly restored, their counts are much less fast-paced than older herring runs with more established herring spawning populations.

Unlike Town Brook in the Center of Plymouth, there are no clickers needed to quickly count the seemingly endless numbers of fish shooting up the stream. 

The counters at Tidmarsh take in the babbling of the stream, the bird calls, and other wildlife encounters—mink, foxes, deer, and Bald Eagles to name a few—but herring sightings are often few and far between. The data sheets of these counters chronicle the slow work of nature’s response to restoration efforts. 

Cumulative Efforts

After two months of daily counts at these two streams, our volunteers have conducted over 1,000 counts at the sanctuary!

The Herring Count Project at Tidmarsh is made possible through a joint effort between Mass Audubon, Living Observatory, North & South Rivers Watershed Association, Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Partnership, and the Responsive Environments Group at the MIT Media Lab.

Mass Audubon would like to thank all of these partnering organizations, and our volunteer counters, for another successful herring count season.