American Shad Restoration Project
Photos | Current Work | Background | Project Scope and Objectives | Additional Information
At a Glance
- 950,000 shad fry were released so far this summer.
- In 2011and 2012 adult shad, introduced as fry, returned to the Charles to spawn.
- To date, approximately 13 million shad fry have been released into the Charles River.
- The goal: an adult shad population of 30,000.
On June 29, 2012 the MA Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released tens of thousands of American shad fry (juvenile shad) into the Charles River. CRWA members, interns, and staff watched as the shad fry were released into the river. Read the press release. This event is one of several shad releases throughout the season.
As the American Shad return from the Atlantic Ocean to the Charles River to spawn, the MA Division of Marine Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continue to monitor their return. The Division of Marine Fisheries took collected specimen to the lab where the fish's ear bones were analyzed to determine whether they are stocked shad marked when they were released 5-6 years ago or part of a remnant native stock. Half of the fish caught were part of the stocked shad.
In June 2011, returning adult American shad were seen in the Charles River for the first time since the program started. Testing confirmed that these adult fish had been released as juveniles as part of the American Shad Restoration Project. This is the first year that returning shad have been observed in the Charles River. This exciting discovery confirms that the hard work to clean up the Charles River is paying off. We are hopeful that increasing numbers of shad will return to spawn as the program continues and more of the released fish mature and return to spawn. Read more about the returning shad recovery in Derrick Jackson's Boston Globe article.
On June 29, 2011, the MA Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released 330,000 American shad fry (juvenile shad) into the Charles River. The fry were hatched and marked at U.S. Fish and Wildlife hatcheries in Nashua, NH and North Attleboro, MA. Mary Griffin and Matt Ayer released the fry through a hose into the Charles River at the Woerd Avenue boat ramp in Waltham, MA as community members watched. Joe McKeon, Complex Manager for the Eastern New England Fishery Resources Complex, Mary Griffin, Commissioner of the Mass. Department of Fish and Wildlife, and CRWA Executive Director, Bob Zimmerman spoke at the event. Visit Dean Bandes' blog for a description of the event. More shad fry will be released later this summer in a continued effort by Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MassDMF) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to re-establish this historically abundant species.
|Aquatic biologist Matt Ayer and Mary Griffin, commissioner of the Mass. Department of Fish and Game release shad fry
In 2010, MassDMF officials began monitoring for returning shad but none were identified. In 2011 monitoring continued, resulting in returning shad being identified.
In 2010, just under 2 million shad fry were released into the Charles River and in 2009, over 4 million juvenile shad were released into the River.
Read a July 2009 Nashua Telegraph article on the shad hatchery and local stocking programs.
In 2006, 2007 and 2008, the first three years of this multi-year project to restore American shad populations, approximately 5 million shad fry were released into the Charles at the Woerd Avenue boat ramp. During the first year of the program CRWA staff monitored water quality conditions throughout the summer and fall in order to assess the quality of the habitat and potential survival hazards for the juvenile shad. Click here for photos of previous shad stocking events.
consider supporting our efforts to help restore historically abundant
native shad to the Charles by contributing to CRWA.
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One of the
largest members of the herring family, American shad can reach up to 30 inches in
length and weigh 7-8 pounds. The shad is one of five species of anadromous fish found in the river – fish that are born in freshwater,
spend the majority of their lives in the ocean, and return to their
native freshwater to spawn.
Shad were plentiful in the
Charles until the mid-1800s, and there are historical records
identifying shad in the river as early as 1633. After 1850, the
population began to decline due to construction of dams and the
degradation of water quality.
Currently, only small numbers of adult shad are observed in the river
each year, although the Charles should support a large, viable shad
population of up to 30,000 adult fish, based on our
target fish community work, which takes
into consideration historical records of fish in the Basin and the
community appropriate for a natural river in southern New England. The
collaborative restoration project seeks to increase the number of shad
to this target population over the next decade.
The shad restoration project is spearheaded by the Massachusetts
Division of Marine Fisheries, with assistance from CRWA. CRWA's
work on the project includes sampling juvenile fish to estimate fish
survival and establish recruitment indices, and assessing the river's
chemistry to determine the best location and timing for stocking. The
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been contracted by MA DMF to handle
the actual fish spawning, rearing, and release aspects of the program.
The project is intended to be a long-term, multi-year program which will involve continued stocking of shad fry as well as monitoring the Charles to track stocked shad returning to the river to spawn.
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Project Scope and Objectives
The project's goals include:
1. Restoring a viable population of American shad;
2. Assisting to improve the ecological health of the river by
re-introducing and supporting a native species;
3. Creating a local sport fishery for anglers.
To reach these goals, the first step is propagation of juvenile shad,
through obtaining a donor population of adult shad from the Merrimack
River near the Essex Dam in Lawrence,
The shad fish larvae are then raised at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
hatchery in Nashua, New Hampshire. The shad fry are marked, using a
special bath, so they can be identified and tracked when they return to the Charles to spawn.
Next, the juvenile shad fry are released into the Charles River in
the Lakes region (the Waltham and Newton area).
Beginning in 2011, the released shad began returning to the river to spawn, and are beingidentified and tracked by
the project coordinators.
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Updated July 9, 2012