Restoring Fish in the Merrimack

The Merrimack River is among the top three most important large rivers on the US East Coast for migratory fish, according to Trout Unlimited (2012). The Merrimack also contains 3 of the top 5% most important dams in the Northeast impeding fish passage, and 10 of the top 10% most important dams impeding fish passage (The Nature Conservancy, 2011) . The US EPA has designated the Merrimack River from Franklin, NH to Lowell, MA as a Priority Waterbody/Wetland due to its importance for  migratory fish and waterfowl.

MRWC is undertaking several actions to help restore the migratory fish that were once so plentiful in the Merrimack River and elsewhere on the East Coast.

  • With NFWF funding, we have completed work with The Nature Conservancy and ACFHP to identify priority habitats for river herring in a number of rivers, tapping the scientific expertise of local scientists. The knowledge gained from this National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant will be subsequently used for the Merrimack, pending funding. The report titled River Herring Habitat Restoration Needs was published on April 30, 2015.
    • The report focused on 6 eastern watersheds, including the Connecticut River, Narrow River (RI), Delaware River, Hudson River, Santee-Cooper, and Chesapeake Bay. These rivers were selected due to their importance to river herring and the ready availability of historic data on the herring run counts. While the study did not include the Merrimack, many of the lessons learned and best management practices are applicable to our watershed.
    • Several common threats emerged, such as the threat of dams blocking or lacking efficient fish passage, and the degradation of water quality from habitat loss and urbanization.
    • For the full report, click RIVER HERRING RESTORATION NEEDS.
    • A paper on Water Quality Impacts to River Herring and Other Fishes was written by MRWC’s Executive Director Caroly Shumway.