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Hundreds of Herring From Connecticut Now Call Bronx River Home

By Eddie Small | April 20, 2017 3:10pm
 Officials released 400 herring into the Bronx River on Thursday morning.
Herring in Bronx River
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THE BRONX — You're not from around here, are you?

Roughly 400 live herring were driven from Connecticut to The Bronx inside a 1,200 gallon tank of water on the back of a truck — and then released into the Bronx River on Thursday morning in an attempt to reestablish their population in the waterway.

Workers connected a large hose to the tank leading right into the section of the river by Boston Road and the Bronx River Parkway to seamlessly get the fish from the vehicle to the water.

Fisheries biologist Steve Gephard promised that the out-of-town fish — who were escorted by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection — would play nice with the existing Bronx herring.

"We guarantee you that our fish will get along with your fish just fine, just fine," he said.

Gephard added that the Bronx river, which is struggling to keep up its herring population, needed the new fish much more than the nutmeg state did.

"They’re not going to miss these fish that we brought you today for your river," he said, "and these fish are going to be put to good use."

Thursday's herring release is part of an ongoing effort by the Parks Department to reestablish a breeding population of the fish in the Bronx River.

The agency installed a fish ladder going over the 182nd Street dam roughly two years ago that will let fish swim upstream, allowing them to spawn in the river for the first time since the 1600s. Herring just started using the fish ladder for the first time earlier this week.

Maggie Greenfield, executive director of the Bronx River Alliance, said that bringing the herring back to the Bronx River was very important from an ecological standpoint.

"When you bring back herring, you bring back lots of other animals, too, that depend on them," she said. "Striped bass and bluefish eat the herring, some of the birds like osprey, bald eagles even eat herring. So it's important in that way to kind of build back the whole ecology of the river."

Herring are important from a cultural standpoint as well, Greenfield said, as they were once abundant in rivers all up and down the eastern seaboard.

"People used to talk about the rivers running silver in the spring because the rivers were just so full — literally so full — of these fish," she said, "and they're an easy fish in that sense to catch and eat."

Greenfield said it's possible for the herring population in the Bronx River to return to its former levels but cautioned that it will take some time.

"We should see, in three or four years, the population growing and growing, especially in the spring," she said, "and maybe we'll see the Bronx River running silver, too."