Participate in Community Science! 2021 Annual River Herring Count in Andover

Monday April 19, 2021

ANDOVER – River herring have been returning to the Shawsheen River from the Atlantic Ocean to spawn again ever since two dams blocking them from their historical home were removed in the winter of 2016-2017. Their return has been documented annually by counting them as they swim upstream to spawn from late April until the end of May.

The annual river herring count, a community science program, takes place on a pedestrian bridge by the Atria Senior Living Center over the Shawsheen River in Andover beginning in  April. Help count river herring as they migrate up the river. The count is to help document their population’s return to their historical spawning grounds.

Volunteers are needed to watch the river for just 10 minutes and record the number of river herring that you see. The goal is to have at least 9 10-minute counts a day, ideally 3 each in the morning, around lunchtime, and late afternoon. Stop by anytime you can, even multiple times a day.

It’s simple to participate, just sign up for a time slot to stand on the bridge and count river herring for ten minutes. A QR code posted at the site which can be accessed by a smartphone will bring you to the online datasheet, where you will submit the data. Volunteers can sign up for multiple slots.

For this season please observe pandemic safety precautions. Currently, that means maintaining a 6 ft distance from others and wearing a face covering. Wait until other counters finish before approaching for your count. Also, avoid the Atria Senior Living property on the west side of the river until all residents and staff have an opportunity to be vaccinated. There is plenty of parking at Shawsheen Plaza.

When to count: The river herring spawners are expected to arrive in April. As soon as one of the volunteers sees the first fish of the season an announcement will be sent out so you’ll know they’ve arrived. Email Jon Honea  ( if you want to be added to the volunteer email list. The run usually lasts 2–3 weeks following the first sighting, depending on the weather and unknown factors.

How to count: Go to the pedestrian bridge across the river, linking Atria Senior Living and Powder Mill Square. If you are driving, park at Shawsheen Plaza and cross Main Street with the pedestrian signal at the traffic light. You’ll know you’re at the right bridge if you look over the downstream side and see metal plates anchored to the streambed to provide contrast to see the fish.

Starting Location: Volunteers watch the river from the footbridge over the Shawsheen River between Atria Senior Living (15 Stevens St) and Powder Mill Square (14 Powder Mill Square) in Andover. Please park at Shawsheen Plaza and cross Main Street at the traffic light with the pedestrian signal.

To access a data entry form for your count visit here.

To enter your 10-minute observation data into your smartphone visit here. There’s also a photo there of river herring so you’ll know what you’re looking for.​

For more information visit:

If you have any questions email Jon Honea:

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