Harwich Herring Run Counted Electronically

herringHARWICH – The way herring are counted in Harwich is going high-tech.

The state’s Division of Marine Fisheries installed the first electronic fish counter on the Herring River last month.

The goal of the counter is to help restore river herring populations, according to Marine Fisheries Biologist Brad Chase.

“It’s a simple process where herring pass through tubes where there is an electronic current, and they break the current and it records each fish as they pass through,” Chase said. “So it provides a very accurate census count of the fish coming up the river.”

The herring runs have been closed to harvesting since 2006 and Marine Chase said these counters could help to open the runs again.

“We need to have a really good count and know what the populations are doing so it could support that future management,” he said. “I think it’s also good just to have better data to know if the populations are going up or down.”

There have been other electronic counters installed in the state and Chase said they did receive feedback from residents on the Cape who were concerned the structure could impede the passage of the fish.

Within the first week of its installation, adjustments were made to the boards that hold the housing for the structure.

“It greatly improved the way fish approached to counter and the counts have increased really nicely since then,” Chase said. “I think we are resolving some of those concerns.

Chase said the process is compatible to the volunteer and video counts and that the data collected will be compared to the other methods.

The counter cost about $15,000 and the DMF saved some money from fabricating the housing themselves.

“It’s an expensive piece of equipment,” he said. “It’s very durable. It’s made just for this purpose and we’ve had them last many, many years at other sites.”

Chase said there have been discussions to possibly install another counter at Stony Brook in Brewster.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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