The Small Sit | Monitoring and Stewarding River Herring in the Gulf of Maine

Spring is here, which means sea-run river herring are returning to coastal rivers and streams across the East Coast! Join Emily Farr, Senior Fisheries Program Manager,  and learn about efforts to monitor and steward river herring across the Gulf of Maine.

Restoration of river herring is critical to rebuilding coastal ecosystems and strengthening climate resilience as the Gulf of Maine continues to warm. Manomet supports community-driven river herring restoration and is tracking the impact of such efforts on river herring abundance and coastal food webs.

River herring is a collective term for two species, alewives and blueback herring. They are anadromous, which means they live primarily in the ocean and migrate upstream each spring to spawn in freshwater lakes and ponds before returning to the ocean. Historically, they have been foundational species in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem, comprising an important source of forage, along with marine species such as Atlantic herring and menhaden, for birds, mammals, and commercially valuable species including cod and haddock. Over the last four hundred years, dams, offshore trawling, and pollution have reduced river herring populations to a small fraction of their historic levels. However, the passage of the Clean Water Act, removal of many dams, installation of fishways, and limits on harvesting have jumpstarted the renewal of river herring populations in the Gulf of Maine.

The Small Sit | Coastal Dredging: Restoration Opportunities For Shorebirds & People

Along with the climate, our coasts are changing. Saltmarsh erodes, coastal forests flood, and sand bars and beaches erode. Mike Molnar, Director of the Coastal Zone Initiative at Manomet, has been working with a number of partners to help assess the impacts of Sea Level rise, changing weather patterns, and coastal development on our coastal ecosystems and the myriad of species that call them home. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) orchestrates dredging of approximately two hundred million cubic yards annually from U.S. waterways for navigation and commerce. For decades these dredged materials were simply viewed as a “spoil” and something that needed to be disposed of, often in a way that removed it from the coastal system. An effort is underway to treat these materials instead as a resource to nourish our coastlines and associated habitats in a more natural way. The current USACE goal is to increase Beneficial Use of Dredged Materials (BUDM) to 70% by 2030 and presents an opportunity to plan for coastal restoration that has a significant impact. Manomet and our partners are working with USACE to identify and prioritize habitat restoration opportunity areas along our coastline that can enhance coastal habitat health and also reduce coastal storm risks to the built environment.

In addition to planning for the beneficial use of dredged materials, we are also working to ensure that everything we are learning about using these materials to create habitat and mitigate coastal storm risks is shared with partners to improve coastal project development and implementation. Mike will share some of the interesting opportunities and challenges of his work in developing a wide range of tools to restore and protect our coast for future generations of birds, crabs, fish, and people.

The Small Sit | Amazon Shorebird Workshop Discoveries

This past fall, Manomet recently guided a team of 15 specialists  and students from 7 partner organizations on a 10-day onsite workshop to observe shorebird use along the Brazilian Amazon River. Juliana Bosi de Almeida, Manomet’s Managing Director, Flyways, coordinated the effort, which is the first ever of its kind. On February 21st, hear from Juliana and Arne Lesterhuis, Senior Shorebird Conservation Specialist, who co-led the workshop. The activities in Brazil are part of a larger project to understand how many shorebirds use the Amazon Basin rivers as stopover sites, and how they distribute themselves in this region, which is greater than two-thirds of the continental United States. Preliminary efforts were conducted in Peru in 2022, but this workshop was the first time surveys were conducted in Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador (in addition to Peru).

Our partners on the survey included the Brazilian National Institute for Amazon Research (INPA), Point Blue, the U.S. Forest Service, University of Massachusetts, SAVE Brasil, Corbidi, and Asociación Calidris. During the workshop, the team compared and contrasted the habitats found in the different countries, while also assessing habitats and shorebirds found along the Solimões River (the Brazilian name for the upper Amazon River). In this webinar, Juliana and Arne will share their work and results, including bird lists and species found.

The Small Sit | Planting The Seed: Opportunities And Challenges For Oyster Reef Building In Maine

Join Marissa McMahan, Senior Director of Fisheries  and Jessie Batchelder, Fisheries Project Manager, as they present some pertinent pearls of wisdom – and data – about the oyster aquaculture in Maine, and their work, along with a number of partners, to create and establish the first oyster reef in Maine.   This program is free, but registration is required.

Coastal climate change impacts include increased erosion from rising seas and storm surge, water quality issues from more intense and frequent rainfall events, and changes in marine biodiversity from warming waters and ocean acidification. Along much of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, oyster reef restoration is carried out to provide a suite of ecosystem services including: mitigation of climate change impacts, supporting wild-harvest fisheries, removal of excess nitrogen, and habitat provision. Oyster reef restoration is common within the mid-Atlantic, yet has not historically been conducted as far north as Maine because cold water has inhibited wild reefs from occurring.

Immense warming in the Gulf of Maine in recent years has made the coast of Maine more suitable for oysters and reef building; however, there are many ecological and social factors to consider. Manomet and a diverse group of partners have been working to establish and monitor the first oyster reef in Maine, as well as facilitate community conversations about Maine’s growing oyster aquaculture industry and potential social and ecological benefits. Join us to learn more about the opportunities and challenges of this groundbreaking work.