10/28/2010 - As Brewster naturalist John Hay famously chronicled in his 1959 book, "The Run," the spawning cycle of the Atlantic river herring — also known as the alewife — is one plagued with many hurdles.
The National Marine Fisheries Service currently lists river herring as a "species of concern" under the Endangered Species Act. In their migration to their freshwater spawning areas, the silvery fish face many obstacles — blocking of spawning habitat by dams, clogged runs, shoreside development, predatory animals, and pollution in ponds and streams.
But clearly the greatest threat to what has been termed one of America's "founding fishes" is the increasing human efficiency in catching them. Since 2000, the once epic numbers of river herring have dropped precipitously, from over 50 million pounds a year to less than a million pounds in 2009 — a decline of over 95 percent. Unless action is taken, we run the risk of losing river herring populations forever.
Read the full editorial Alewife in Danger on the Cape Cod Times' Web site.