Alewife stampede

By Phil Crossman | Jun 30, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I reported on efforts undertaken by the Department of Marine Resources, the Vinalhaven Land Trust and a handful of interested Vinalhaven residents to re-introduce alewives to certain of the island’s inland waterways. In this case it was Old Harbor Pond, an estuary that takes on a lot of fresh water from surrounding quarries and streams but is also fed by and feeds Old Harbor, a working anchorage on Vinalhaven’s southwest shore.

The intercourse between the two takes place through the opening in a small dam and conduit at the pond’s northwest shore. Two weeks ago, 1,500 alewives were carefully deposited into the pond at its southeastern extremity, but the transaction took place when the water in the pond was lower than usual. The alewives, who needed to run to the greater pond area where there was some depth and where they could successfully spawn, were reluctant to make the voyage through shallow water, because the predatory gulls and birds could then so readily pluck them out of the water as they raced desperately toward their spawning ground.

Instead, they milled around the little swampy area where they’d been discharged, watching as a few of their braver numbers now and then ventured out to run the treacherous course toward deeper water. The gulls were having a field day. Certain of the pond front neighbors shot at them with water canon in an effort to lend the alewives a hand, but to little avail, and before long there were many fewer than the 1,500 begun with.

By the time the water level rose, the requisite few inches required for a successful run for cover, they seemed too timid to try, so a couple of local guys hopped into the swamp and stampeded them, making a great deal of commotion in the process which, in turn, kept the gulls at bay. We think a sufficient number made it and we can look forward to the four-year spawning cycle completing and perpetuating itself and yielding satisfying results.

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