Have you ever heard of a herring warden?

Project monitoring is an important part of river restoration work. A solid pre- and post-dam removal monitoring plan can provide you with a reliable foundation on which to build your project and to document its successes. American Rivers has committed to funding a small percentage of monitoring work on some of the projects we are involved in through our partnership with the NOAA Community-based Restoration Program.

The town of Plymouth, Massachusetts has been working on an amazing suite of restoration projects aimed at restoring the historic fisheries of Town Brook, and American Rivers is proud to be working with an array of partners to restore historic fish runs that once sustained America’s earliest settlers. A key part of this project has been to hire a herring warden to monitor current fish populations on Town Brook.

If you’re like me, you might be wondering what exactly a herring warden does and what monitoring entails. To get some answers, I recently spoke with Alison Barrett, Town Brook Herring Warden.

S: What exactly is a herring warden?
Alison:I am in charge of monitoring herring runs (both blueback and alewife) on Town Brook. This involves doing three 10-minute herring counts (morning, afternoon, and evening) to provide the partnership data on how many fish are in the system. There is also an electric counter at the site that gets checked daily.

S: How does the electric counter work?
Alison: The counter is placed at the top of the fish ladder and has sensors attached to it. When the fish go through the tube at the top of the ladder, they hit the sensors. Different sensors register whether the fish are migrating upstream or downstream. Also, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has an underwater camera set up that even has infrared capabilities for night monitoring.

S: Speaking of the fish ladder, what specific site or sites are you monitoring?
Alison: While I’m monitoring the entire system, the primary site is the fish ladder at the Jenney Grist Mill. I also check the weir at the harbor and at the top of the Holmes Dam.

S: How many fish have you been seeing?
Alison: I’ve seen more than 20,000 this season. Last week, I was averaging roughly 400 herring per ten minute count.

S: How do you keep up, counting that many fish?
Alison: I have a clicker to help me keep count.

S: Do you monitor anything else?
Alison: Just water temperature at the top of fish ladder. I also note presence and absence of resident fish, such as large mouth bass.

S: What prompted you to take the job as herring warden?
Alison: I have lived here my whole life. My mom used to bring me to the brook to watch the herring runs. I’m now a biology major in college, and taking this job just seemed like the right fit.

Do you have questions about monitoring you’d like to ask? Feel free to post them in the comment section. Otherwise, stay tuned for future updates from the Town Brook monitoring front!