The towns of Middleborough and Lakeville have a long standing commitment to manage and protect the Nemasket River herring run. This tradition has been supported by monetary incentives and interest to sustain a natural resource used widely by the public. Over the years, individuals and commercial enterprises were allowed allotments of herring and commercial licenses were issued through annual bids. For many years, Middleborough and Lakeville residents were allowed one bushel of herring annually. Commercial herring fishing on the Nemasket River ended in 1965. For many decades, herring wardens were appointed by the Selectmen, but no formal program was in place. In 1996, the current Middleborough‐Lakeville Herring Fishery Commission was established and new harvest rules were promulgated. Any Middleborough or Lakeville residents could buy a permit allowing up to four dozen (48) herring being taken per week, with four days open for harvest. Three hundred permits were reserved for residents of other communities. The harvest was overseen by the wardens and several volunteer observers. The season ran from the last Wednesday in March to June 15, although catching usually ended in May as the herring run faded. This system remained in place until MarineFisheries instituted the ban on recreational herring harvest in 2006.
The current Commission consists of seven volunteer fish wardens, appointed jointly by the Boards of Selectmen in Middleborough and Lakeville. Wardens are the voting members of the Commission and are assisted by several volunteers. The Commission is broadly charged with administering and enforcing herring harvest regulations, maintaining and enhancing herring habitat, and public education on the herring run. It was agreed that since the spawning grounds and river boundaries were in both Middleborough and Lakeville, and the law gave control of the herring run to both towns, then both towns should work jointly to protect the herring. Operating as a Chapter 44, Section 53E and ½ revolving fund agency, Commission funds came solely from the sale of herring permits. With the ban on herring catching, no permits have been sold and no operating funds have been generated since 2005. Through frugal management practices the Commission presently maintains an annual operating budget
- Administer and enforce herring catching regulations.
- Provide public education about the herring run.
- Maintain and enhance herring habitat in the river.
- Work with and advise other boards and groups on herring related matters.