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How’s The Water: January 25, 2013

Don’t Know What An Alewife Is?

Learn Feb. 12 in Oyster Bay

Friends of the Bay, in cooperation with the Long Island Sound Study, Department of Environmental Conservation and the Seatuck Environmental Center will be conducting a training session for alewife monitoring on Tuesday, February 12 from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Friends of the Bay offices at 111 South Street, Oyster Bay.  

What is an alewife? Alewives (also called river herring) are small fish, growing up to 16 inches long and weighing less than half a pond.  Their small size belies their importance in the ecosystem. Alewives provide for river otters, seals and other marine mammals, birds such as cormorants, ospreys, herons and eagles and other fish including bass, trout and cod. Alewives support both commercial and recreational fisheries. In the South, they are a regional delicacy. Further north, they are used as bait for lobster traps and are valued as bait for striped bass.  

Populations are in serious decline along the Atlantic Coast. Management of the population is complicated, since river herring begin life in headwater creeks managed by state inland fisheries agencies. They then migrate to coastal waters controlled by state marine fisheries agencies.

On Long Island, alewife populations have declined also and this aspect of our natural heritage has been largely forgotten. Efforts are underway to restore alewives by providing access to historical spawning grounds that have been lost due to barriers to migration. Plans are underway to modify impassable culverts, remove obsolete dams, or install fish ladders and other passage structures to help fish reach valuable spawning habitat. If you are interested in learning more about alewives, respond to either Kelly Hines Leo at 631-444-0441 ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) or Patricia Aitken at 516-922-6666 ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).