Press Releases

Thursday, April 09, 2009
No. 30

Parks Finds Alewife In Bronx River For First Time Since 1600s

The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation announced that its Natural Resources Group (NRG) scientists and community partners monitoring the Bronx River found several mature alewife on Tuesday, for possibly the first time since the 1600s.

“Thanks to the hard work of our dedicated Parks scientists and community partners, we discovered fish returning to spawn a next generation – another great sign of the renaissance of the Bronx River,” said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “Around the City, as one of the central initiatives of PlaNYC, we are opening up more of our waterfront to the public and restoring ecosystems to welcome back long-absent species.”

In 2006, as part of NRG’s project to reestablish a native population, mature alewife were introduced upstream of the 182nd Street Dam on the Bronx River. Scientists believe that these fish are progeny from this 2006 introduction. The fact that the fish were successfully introduced is proof that the Bronx River’s recovery. The next goal of the project is to construct fish ladders on the dams to enable the fish to swim freely upriver to spawn.

“The returning herring that were caught and released shows that our efforts over these many years to return the Bronx River to health have worked,” said Congressman José E. Serrano. “It’s a great day for the Bronx environment.”

The Park Department’s fish monitoring program relies on community groups and its affiliated groups, including the Bronx River Alliance, Wildlife Conservation Society and Green Apple Corps, and other community groups like Rocking the Boat, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, Lehman College and Queens College.

“It’s a thrill to see these fish return to the Bronx River,” said Bronx River Alliance and Bronx River Administrator Linda Cox. “It confirms that our efforts are succeeding and tells us it’s time for the next step – putting fish ladders into place.”

The return of alewife is a testimony to the water quality and habitat restoration improvements that have been achieved along the Bronx River over the past several decades. The reforestation and restoration of the riverbanks and the watershed, and the work and commitment of our local conservation partners, are all integral parts of the aquatic ecosystem restoration.

“The Wildlife Conservation Society is extremely proud to be part of the original stocking of alewife in The Bronx River in 2006,” said Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Director John Calvelli. “With the return of a beaver to the Bronx two years ago, and now alewife, the Bronx River is clearly on the rebound thanks to the hard work of Congressman Serrano, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation/Bronx River Alliance, Lehman College and so many others.”

Alewife are “anadromous” fish that are born in freshwater, migrate out to the ocean to mature, and then journey thousands of miles to return to their birth stream to spawn. The original colonists built dams on the Bronx River, blocking access to upstream freshwater spawning habitat. River herring, such as alewife, have been cut off from essential upstream freshwater spawning habitat. Alewife are an important food source for birds, mammals, and large fish in our rivers, estuaries and the ocean, and are part of the cultural and economic heritage of the Northeast.

About NRG

Of New York City’s 29,000 acres of parkland, more than 10,000 acres are composed of forest, woodland, freshwater wetland and salt marsh ecosystems. In 1984, Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern founded the Natural Resources Group (NRG), with its mission: To conserve New York City's natural resources for the benefit of ecosystem and public health through acquisition, management, restoration, and advocacy using a scientifically supported and sustainable research. NRG's team of biologists, natural resource managers, mapping scientists and restoration ecologists develop and implement management programs for protection, acquisition, and restoration of the City's natural resources.

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