Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Fish Are Spawning in the Mianus in Greenwich Again This Year

About 90,000 anadromous fish -- alewives, mainly, but blueback herring as well -- made it over the fish ladder on the Mianus River in Greenwich in the spring of 2007. That number amazed fisheries biologists, because river herring populations have been dropping all over, and it's illegal to catch them in Connecticut.

Back in March, at the Long Island Sound Citizens Summit conference in Bridgeport, Steve Gephard, the director of inland fisheries for the Connecticut DEP, made a presentation and said that there were 44 fishways -- passages to help spawning fish make it over dams -- in Connecticut, and a 45th being built in Darien.

By coincidence he sat down next to me after his talk, and I asked him about Greenwich. He said the incredible number of fish on the Mianus was an eyebrow-raiser but that for reasons they don't understand it might also be an anomaly, a one-time surge that they can't explain.

But that does not seem to be the case. The Greenwich Time ran a Q&A with Brian Eltz, an assistant in Greenwich's conservation department whose job it is to coordinate the river herring count. Here's an excerpt:

What's been going on over at the fishway?

At the fishway, we've had a tremendous herring run this year. We've passed about 82,000 river herring so far and about 77,000 of the alewives and the bluebacks just started coming out. We have about 20 volunteers there who have been helping, so we've been able to collect good data.

How is our fishway unique?

Well, it's got the best run in the state of herring at a fishway.

What does that mean?

We have the highest number. What it is is that we have a lot of good habitat like the pond and being so close to the coast. It's good access for fish to come in and spawn in that habitat.

So it's not an anomaly. But it's still hard to explain.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Terry said...

Tom,
The Mianus fish way was the result of one of lawsuits. It was one of the mitigation projects required to be funded by the town of Greenwich in addition to their plant upgrades over the years.
Terry Backer
Soundkeeper

2:28 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

That's interesting. We call it the "M" word for mitigation. It works!

As to sudden blooms and declines in certain species, some just seem to happen randomly. Several years ago, millions of starfish washed up on our beaches from some strange reason, as the divers hadn't seen any like those in decades.

Such wild swings in marine life populations really drives the modelers and regulators nuts, since things should follow a nice line or curve of increasing or diminishing resources.

For another example, the NMFS says there are no red snapper off Texas, being almost depleted to extinction. So a bunch of us were wondering why on Earth we were catching 100 each in a few hours! The NMFS models and stock assessments were used nonetheless, which made for a huge fight.

It goes to show, Mother Nature does not follow the numerical games we play on her, and sometimes makes us all look like a bunch of idiots.
-sam

1:21 PM  

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