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Celebration Today Marks Return of River Herring to Historic Town Brook in Plymouth, MA

Friday, April 25, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Celebration Today Marks Return of River Herring to Historic Town Brook in Plymouth, MA

Contact: Maggie Mooney-Seus, NOAA Fisheries, 978-281-9175, (c) 774-392-4865; Meagan Racey, US Fish and Wildlife Service, (o) 413-253-8558 (c) 413-658-4386

Today, Federal, state and local government leaders, representatives of the Wampanoag Nation, members of the Massachusetts state Congress, representatives of environmental and business communities and the public gathered to celebrate the homecoming of thousands of river herring (i.e., alewife and blueback herring) to Town Brook and the removal of another major barrier to their safe passage on this historic waterway.

Town Brook has a rich history, providing food and freshwater for the Wampanoag Nation and Europeans, or Pilgrims, who later settled the region. Each year, river herring return to Town Brook to spawn as they have done for thousands of years.  However since the colonial period, six dams were built along the brook.  Until recently, only 7 percent of the 150,000 returning fish were able to pass over the Off Billington Street Dam. It was one of three remaining obstacles encountered on their two-mile journey from Plymouth Harbor to the Billington Sea to spawn.  

In 2013, the Town of Plymouth and its partners removed this obsolete 8.4-foot high industrial-mill dam and restored the adjacent stream channel. Over the past 10 years, project partners have removed or modified four of six dams to improve fish passage.  The removal of nearby Plymco Dam, later this year, will open another 269 acres of prime habitat. When the restoration work is complete, the potential exists for the herring run to be fully restored. In the future, residents could experience runs of up to one million fish like those witnessed by the Wampanoag tribe and Pilgrims centuries ago.

River herring play a key role in the marine food chain, serving as food for important commercial and recreational fish species like cod and many birds and mammals.  Restored river herring runs will not only benefit the Town Brook ecosystem, but also the communities that live along the watershed. For instance, removing the unmaintained Off Billington Street Dam eliminated a public safety concern and provided an opportunity to remove contaminated sediment and improve water quality in the brook. River herring also have cultural significance to the Wampanoag Nation, and large runs can attract recreational anglers, bringing tourism dollars into the local economy. 

Today‚Äôs celebration included remarks from organization representatives engaged in this multi-year collaboration. The dedication also kicked off the first Herring Run Festival.  Organized by the Plimoth Plantation, the festival celebrates the importance of river herring to the Wampanoag Nation, the historic Plimoth colony and the current Plymouth community.

Click here for statements from project partners
Click here to view the Dedication Event agenda