Document Type



Aquaculture and Fisheries | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Population Biology | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology | Zoology


Populations of anadromous alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus) are declining throughout much of their range, particularly in southern New England where fishery moratoriums have recently been instituted in three states. The alewife run at Bride Brook, a coastal stream in East Lyme, Connecticut, was studied from 2003-06 to assess shifts in demography and life history. Annual censuses of abundance, along with sampling for size, age, and spawning history structure were conducted. These data were compared to similar data in 1966-67 at this site. Recent alewife runs at Bride Brook featured lower abundance and younger, smaller fish that were less likely to be repeat-spawners. The 1966 spawning run was dominated by age 5–7 repeat-spawners, while runs in 2003-06 were dominated by age 3 and 4 first-spawn fish. Mean length declined by 10% between 1966 and 2006. Alewives are also recruiting to the spawning run at younger ages and smaller sizes, indicating a shift in life history. The first-spawn portion of the 1966 spawning run was dominated by age 5 fish, while recent first-time spawners were primarily age 3. The shifts in demography and life history observed at Bride Brook are consistent with exploitation or predation concentrated on older, larger individuals in the population. The results of this study suggest recent increases in predatory pressure or bycatch mortality as promising hypotheses that merit further investigation.