River Herring

River herring is the collective name for two anadromous (land-sea migrating) species of herring: blueback herring Alosa aestivalis and alewife A. pseudoharengus. Once incredibly abundant, they have declined to historically low numbers and are currently listed as Species of Concern under the Endangered Species Act. River herring spawn in rivers, estuaries, and coastal ponds, where the juveniles rear, but then migrate out to the Atlantic Ocean, where they become vulnerable to fisheries that are targeting other species (hence they are called “bycatch”).

Project Title: Determining the Origins of River Herring in Marine Bycatch

Using a combination of state of the art methods in genetics and otolith (ear-stone) chemistry, we will determine geographic-specific “fingerprints” of genes and geochemical markers that will enable us to identify fish to where they were born. We will then assay fish caught in bycatch to determine their origins. This will be an important step in managing these species which have such a wide lifetime use of habitats.

Location: East Coast of North America

Timeline: 2010-2013

Field and lab participants:
SUNY ESF: Karin Limburg and Sara Turner
Duke University: Eric Palkovacs and Emily Argo
University of Southern Maine: Theo Willis and Ellen McCann

Other collaborators:
David Post, Yale University
Steve Gephardt, Connecticut DEP
Jake Kritzer, Environmental Defense Fund
and many, many state and provincial agencies.

Principal Investigators:
Eric Palcovacs, Duke University
Karin Limburg, SUNY-ESF
Theo Willis, University of Southern Maine

Funding: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

Karin E. Limburg, Associate Professor
Illick Hall, SUNY-ESF
One Forestry Drive, Syracuse, NY 1321
Tel. 315-470-6741. Email KLimburg@esf.edu