For more than a century, a small dam in Mill Neck has blocked river herring returning from Long Island Sound to reproduce in freshwater wetlands.
A fish passage that opened on Aug. 30 allows the herring to spawn in Beaver Lake and Beaver Brook. It’s the latest in a series of about 10 fish passages constructed across Long Island to increase fish populations.
The Mill Neck fish ladder is designed to increase the number of alewives and blueback herring, two types of migratory river herring that have dramatically declined in population in the area since the dam was built in about 1910, said Sally Harold, director of river restoration and fish passage for the Connecticut chapter of the nonprofit Nature Conservancy, which oversaw the Mill Neck project.
The herring are important prey for larger fish such as striped bass and tuna, as well as osprey, heron, eagles and other birds, and mammals such as otter.
“They are critical to the survival of so many other species,” Harold said of the herring.
Over the years, a small number of herring were able to swim over the dam during high tides and storm tides, but far fewer than the number that naturally migrated to the area when what is now a freshwater lake…
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