Thursday, October 2, 2008

Herring Parasites?

It is pretty busy at this time of year under my boat at Constitution Marina on Boston Harbor just below the dam at the entrance to the Charles River.

As you can see from this screenshot from my online live Fishcam, big bluefish and striped bass feed on tinker mackeral, menhaden, and two kinds of herring - alewives and bluebacks - both of which are extremely important to the health of the ecosystem, and the fish, birds, and marine mammals with which we share our harbor.

Over the past few weeks I have noticed that well over 50% of the herring I see have odd - almost baroque - growths that appear to be anchored to their bodies, near their fins, vent and mouths and elsewhere on their bodies.

These herring are between 3.5 and 5 inches long. Some of the growths are over two inches long. The smaller "young of the year" do not appear to be affected at all.

When they are in the water some of the them look like little palm trees, some like the swizzle sticks you find in exotic drinks.

I have been Save the Harbor / Save the Bay's BayWatcher for more than a decade, and have never seen anything like this before.

Any ideas about what they are would be appreciated.


Bruce Berman