American shad are making a strong comeback in the Delaware River, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced last week.
In a spring survey, nets scooped up the ninth largest haul of migrating adult shad ever recorded, while summer surveys of this year’s hatchling juvenile shad were the best in nearly four decades of monitoring, the DEP said.
“We have worked very closely over the years with our partner state and federal agencies in the river basin as well as numerous nonprofit and community groups to restore this species to the Delaware, the largest free-flowing river in the eastern United States,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said.
The closing of the commercial shad fishery in the ocean by state and federal fisheries managers more than a decade ago, after shad stocks hit all-time lows, is another contributor to the rebound, the DEP noted.
According to the DEP, the fish provided food and other essential uses to Native Americans, fed George Washington’s Continental Army and supported a major 19th century commercial fishery. But water quality problems threatened the spawning runs.
Water quality improvements, especially upgrades to wastewater treatment systems in the 1980s and 1990s, greatly improved dissolved oxygen levels and enabled shad to gain access to the upper river and its tributaries.
The American shad is the largest member of the herring family, and weighs 4 to 8 pounds at maturity. They spend most of their lives in the ocean but return to rivers and their tributaries to spawn.
For more information on shad and annual shad survey reports, visit nj.gov/dep/fgw/fish_shad.htm.