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A Northeast CASC fellow is working with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) and its partners to improve the spawning habitat of river herring through high tech tracking.

Read the original news stories spotlighting this work in Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, here and the Boston Globe, here.

Historically, river herring spawned in most rivers and tributaries along the Atlantic coast. However, the obstruction of spawning rivers by dams and other impediments, in combination with overfishing and habitat degradation, have severely reduced river herring populations. Despite harvest restrictions and other management measures, herring populations have struggled to rebound.

Still, members of federally recognized tribes may take herring for sustenance, leading the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) in Martha's Vineyard, who have used river herring for food, bait, and fertilizer for millennia, to take a leading role in restoration efforts. To compliment the Wampanoags ongoing restoration and research efforts, Asha Ajmani, a Northeast CASC fellow, and partners are working with members of the Wampanoag Natural Resources Department to insert passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags into river herring. The tags will allow that research team to track the herring’s movements and identify their preferred spawning habitat to inform their management of the watershed.

Ajmani had previosuly worked alongside a First Nations tribe in Canada while earning her master’s degree and noted that she “learned more about salmon just by talking to them than I did from the actual research”. Noting how valuable she found the Indigenous knowledge perspective to be, she noted "that was something I wanted to continue in my future research.”

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