Jimena Perez-Viscasillas
[email protected]
NY Outreach Coordinator
New York Sea Grant

Alewives in the Peconic River. Photo by: Bryan Young
River herring in the Peconic River. (Photo Credit: Byron Young)

STONY BROOK, NY (February 16, 2021): Years ago, during the cold winter months of February and March, streams and rivers around Long Island Sound would be “painted silver” with the arrival of millions of river herring making their way upstream. River herring are diadromous fish, meaning they spend part of their life cycle in saltwater and part in freshwater. Similar to the salmon’s well-known trek upstream, river herrings journey from the ocean into freshwater bodies to reproduce. However, unlike salmon, river herring are not particularly skilled jumpers. So, as Long Island became more urbanized and dams and culverts were constructed in the area, river herring found their path upstream obstructed. This occurrence, in addition to other factors such as pollution and being caught as bycatch, led populations of this ecologically important fish to decline.

To address this issue, the Long Island Sound Study (LISS) and other local environmental management programs have been working for decades to re-open river miles. They do so by collaborating with local stakeholders and landowners to identify dams and culverts for potential removal or by helping fund the construction of “fish ladders,” structures that allow fish to swim over the dam. As of 2006, this work also includes conducting an annual fish survey to identify new potential streams to re-open and to find out if alewives are returning to the 415 river miles that LISS has re-opened in New York and Connecticut since 1998.

Volunteers participate in the survey and help monitor some of these rivers and streams after receiving basic training. This year, amidst Covid-19 restrictions, LISS and its partners are offering their annual monitoring training sessions virtually. The first webinar, open to volunteers in all regions of Long Island, will take place on February 25th at 5:30 pm as part of Community Science LI, an educational webinar series aimed at highlighting local volunteer monitoring efforts and their links to management and research. Volunteers will learn about the ecological importance of river herring, how to identify these traveling fish, and how monitoring makes a difference in local conservation. Additional training webinars are set to occur by region:

The monitoring program is a partnership between LISS, the Peconic Estuary Partnership, the South Shore Estuary Reserve, and the Seatuck Environmental Association.

For more information on upcoming trainings, message Victoria O’Neill at [email protected] or Jimena Perez-Viscasillas at [email protected].

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