Alosa pseudoharengus
Alosa pseudoharengus
(Alewife)
Fishes
Native Transplant
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Alosa pseudoharengus (Wilson, 1811)

Common name: Alewife

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Whitehead (1985); Page and Burr (1991); Etnier and Starnes (1993); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994). The alewife is a small herring with a dark dorsal side, bluish to greenish, and light sides with horizontal darker stripes.

Size: to 38 cm, but inland populations usually less than 25 cm

Native Range: Atlantic Coast from Red Bay, Labrador, to South Carolina; many landlocked populations (Page and Burr 1991).

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Alaska
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Hawaii
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Puerto Rico &
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Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: Alewife were introduced into Colorado (Minckley 1973); Georgia (Dahlberg and Scott 1971); Lake Michigan, Illinois (Miller 1957; Smith 1979; Phillips et al. 1982; Emery 1985); Lake Michigan (Miller 1957; Phillips et al. 1982; Emery 1985), Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Tilmant 1999), Bass Lake (INDNR) Indiana; Kentucky (Burr and Page 1986; Burr and Warren 1986); Maine (Smith 1985); Massachusetts (Hartel 1992); the Great Lakes (Miller 1957; Eddy and Underhill 1974; Phillips et al. 1982; Emery 1985; Smith 1985), Isle Royale National Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Tilmant 1999) and Lake St. Clair (Cudmore-Vokey and Crossman 2000) Michigan ; Lake Superior, Minnesota (Miller 1957; Eddy and Underhill 1974; Phillips et al. 1982; Emery 1985); Nebraska (Morris et al. 1974; Bouc 1987); New Hampshire (Smith 1985); Adirondack lakes (Smith 1985), Otsego Lake in 1988 (T. Sinnott, personal communication), Lake Erie (Miller 1957; Eddy and Underhill 1974; Emery 1985; Smith 1985), lakes in the headwaters of Black River, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and Saratoga Lake (Smith 1970), Otisco Lake (Kelly 2001), and possibly Lake Ontario (Smith 1970; Smith 1985), New York; Lake Erie and Conneaut, Ohio (Miller 1957; Emery 1985); Lake Erie (Miller 1957; Eddy and Underhill 1974; Emery 1985), Youghiogheny River (Hendricks et al. 1979), and Colyer Lake in Centre County (Denoncourt et al. 1975), Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (Tilmant 1999), Pennsylvania; Lake Moultrie, Lake Marion, Congaree River, and Wateree River, South Carolina (Rohde et al. 2009); Dale Hollow and Watauga Reservoirs, Tennessee (Etnier and Starnes 1993; W. Pollock, personal communication); Lake St. Catherine and Lake Champlain, Vermont (Hauser 1998; Marsden and Hauser 2009); several reservoirs in Virginia (Hocutt et al. 1986; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994); Bluestone Reservoir, New drainage, West Virginia (Hocutt et al. 1986; Stauffer et al. 1995; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994); and lakes Michigan and Superior, Kangaroo Lake, Pigeon River, Pigeon Lake, East Twin River, Sheboygan River, Green Bay, St. Louis River estuary, Sauk Creek, and Milwaukee River, Wisconsin (Miller 1957; Phillips et al. 1982; Becker 1983; Emery 1985; Czypinski et al. 2002).

Collected from Lake Superior at Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada (USGS Lake Superior Biological Station).

Means of Introduction: There is apparently disagreement concerning the native status of alewife in Lake Ontario. Miller (1957) and Smith (1970) point out the first record from Lake Ontario was in 1873. Smith (1970) is of the opinion that it was introduced into the lake. Although Smith (1970) brings up the possibility that alewife were introduced into Lake Ontario with American shad stockings in the 1880s, he discounts this possibility in favor of the hypothesis that they reached the lake via the Erie Canal from the Hudson River. He contends that alewife were only able to invade the lake after the decline of predators such as lake trout and Atlantic salmon in the 1860s. Other authors believe, this species was probably native to Lake Ontario (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.) and spread through the Great Lakes via the Welland Canal (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.). The species was first reported from Lake Erie in 1931, Lake Huron in 1933, Lake Michigan in 1949, and Lake Superior in 1954. The alewife was intentionally stocked in inland waters. The population in the New River, West Virginia, resulted from stockings in Claytor Lake, New River, Virginia (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994). The recently discovered population in Lake St. Catherine, Vermont, is likely a result of an illegal stocking (Good, personal communication). Lakes in the Adirondack Mountains and Otsego Lake, New York were illegally stocked with alewife for forage (Smith 1985; Sinnott, personal communication; D. Warner, personal communication).

Status: Established in many states and throughout the Great Lakes. Introduction to the Youghiogheny River was unsuccessful (Hendricks et al. 1979).

Impact of Introduction: Presence of the alewife could restructure a lake's food web, leaving less food for native species (USEPA 2008). Disappearance of native planktivorous salmonids, such as whitefish, in the Great Lakes has been attributed in part to the introduction of alewife, which reduced zooplankton populations (Crowder and Binkowski 1983; Todd 1986; Page and Laird 1993). Crowder (1984) speculated that a cisco native to Lake Michigan, the bloater Coregonus hoyi, evolved fewer and shorter gill rakers, and shifted to benthic habitat and diet as a result of competition with alewifes. Smith (1970) attributed the extermination of the lake herring and decline of chub species in the Great Lakes to the alewife. Smith also talks about the various interrelated changes that took place in each of the Great Lakes as alewife abundance increased. Christie (1972), on the other hand, argues that the alewife was not responsible for these changes. The alewife is the dominant fish in Lake Michigan. It accounts for 70–90% of the fish weight (Becker 1983). Alewife has recently become the dominant prey item for double-crested cormorants in Lake Champlain (DeBruyne et al. 2012). Additionally, alewife (both age-0 and adults) show significant spatial overlap with age-0 rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) in Lake Champlain, which could alter population dynamics of both species through competition (between age-0 alewife and smelt) or predation (by adult alewife on age-0 of both species) and limit the availability of these forage fish to larger predators such as lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) and Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) (Simonin et al. 2012). Pothoven et al. (2013) documented an increased abundance of age-0 yellow perch (Perca flavescens) and changes in the zooplankton community structure in Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron following the disappearance of alewife, including increased abundance of cladocerans (e.g., Daphnia spp., Bythotrephes, Leptodora) and decreased abundance of cyclopoid copepods. Alewife contain high levels of thiaminase, which reduces absorption and assimilation of thiamin in predators such as salmonids can cause reduced body condition, swim performance, and other potenial impacts (Houde et al. 2015)

Alewife is a very important species in the history of biological invasions in the Great Lakes. Periodic large-scale die-offs littered the beaches of the Great Lakes with rotting fish in the 1960's. Such die-offs can pose both a nuisance and a health hazard (Becker 1983). Prompted by calls for alewife management, Pacific salmonids were introduced to both control alewife populations and utilize alewife as a food source for sport fisheries.

Remarks: Although there is a report of two small alewives taken from the Colorado River, Texas (Bean 1882), we believe this record is in error. Bean (1882) reported that the specimens were sent to Professor Baird at the National Museum. However, a query of the museum's holdings did not return these specimens. We believe the fish are more likely either misidentified A. chrysochloris or A. sapidissima. Alosa sapidissima were stocked in the Colorado River in 1874 (Bean 1882).

Voucher specimens: Michigan (UMMZ 157215, 160969, 167872, 171308, 170945), Wisconsin (UMMZ 162861, 167945). 

References: (click for full references)

Alewife explosion. 1967, July 7. TIME. 90(1):66. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,899581,00.html

Bean, T.H. 1882. Movements of young alewives (Pomolobus sp.) in Colorado River, Texas. Pp. 69-70 in S. F. Baird, editor. Report of the Commissioner of Fiishes and Fisheries for 1881. Volume I. U.S. Commision of Fish and Fisheries, Washington, DC.

Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI. 1052 pp. http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/EcoNatRes.FishesWI

Bence, James R, NE Dobiesz, CP Madenjian, R Argyle, R Barbiero, JN Bowlby, RM Claramunt, R O’Gorman and T Schaner.  2008.  Top-Down Effects of Open-Water Salmonine Predators in the Great Lakes.  QFC Technical Report T2008-07.

Bouc, K. 1987. The fish book. Nebraskaland Magazine 65(1):1-130.

Brown, E.H. 1968. Population characteristics and physical condition of alewives, Alosa pseudoharengus, in a massive dieoff in Lake Michigan, 1967. Great Lakes Fishery Commission Technical Report No. 13. Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Ann Arbor, MI, 20 pp.

Burr, B.M., and L.M. Page. 1986. Zoogeography of fishes of the lower Ohio-upper Mississippi basin. Pages 287-324 in C. H. Hocutt, and E. O. Wiley, editors. The Zoogeography of North American Freshwater Fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Burr, B.M., and M.L. Warren, Jr. 1986. A distributional atlas of Kentucky fishes. Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission Scientific and Technical Series 4. 398 pp.

Christie, W.J. 1972. Lake Ontario: effects of exploitation, introductions, and eutrophication on the salmonid community. Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada 29:913-929.

Crowder, L.B. 1984. Character displacement and habitat shift in a native cisco in southeastern Lake Michigan: Evidence for competition? Copeia 1984(4):878-883.

Crowder, L.B., and F.P. Binkowski. 1983. Foraging behaviors and the interactions of alewife, Alosa pseudoharengus, and bloater, Coregonus hoyi. Environmental Biology of Fishes 8: 105-113.

Cudmore-Vokey, B. and E.J. Crossman. 2000. Checklists of the fish fauna of the Laurentian Great Lakes and their connecting channels. Canadian Manuscript Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 2500: v + 39 pp.

Czypinski, G.D., A.K. Bowen, M.T. Weimer, and A. Dextrase. 2002. Surveillance for ruffe in the Great Lakes, 2001. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ashland, WI.

Dahlberg, M.D., and D.C. Scott. 1971. The freshwater fishes of Georgia. Bulletin of the Georgia Academy of Science 29:1-64.

DeBruyne, R.L., T.L. DeVault, A.E. Duerr, D.E. Capen, F.E. Pogmore, J.R. Jackson, and L.G. Rudstam. 2012. Spatial and temporal comparisons of double-crested cormorant diets following the establishment of alweife in Lake Champlain, USA. Journal of Great Lakes Research 38(Supplement 1):123-130.

Denoncourt, R.F., T.B. Robbins, and R. Hesser. 1975. Recent introductions and reintroductions to the Pennsylvania fish fauna of the Susquehanna River drainage above Conowingo Dam. Proceedings of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science 49:57-58.

Eck, G.W., and L. Wells. 1987. Recent changes in Lake Michigan’s fish community and their probably causes, with emphasis on the role of alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 44(Supp. 2):53-60.

Eddy, S., and J.C. Underhill. 1974. Northern fishes, with special reference to the Upper Mississippi Valley, 3rd edition. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN.

Emery, L. 1985. Review of fish introduced into the Great Lakes, 1819-1974. Great Lakes Fishery Commission Technical Report, volume 45. 31 pp.

Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.

Evans, M.S. 1990. Large-lake responses to declines in the abundance of a major fish planktivore - the Lake Michigan example. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 47:1738-1754.

Fitzsimons, J.D., S.B. Brown, D.C. Honeyfield, and J.G. Hnath. 1999. A review of early mortality syndrome (EMS) in Great Lakes salmonids: relationship with thiamine deficiency. Ambio 28(1):9-15.

Good, S. - Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, Pittsford. 1998.

Hansen, M.J., and Holey, M.E. 2002. Ecological factors affecting the sustainability of chinook and coho salmon populations in the Great Lakes, especially Lake Michigan. In Sustaining North American Salmon: Perspectives Across Regions and Disciplines. Edited by W.W. Taylor, K.D. Lynch, and M. L. Jones. pp. 155-180.

Hartel, K.E. 1992. Non-native fishes known from Massachusetts freshwaters. Occasional Reports of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Fish Department, Cambridge, MA. 2 September. pp. 1-9.

Hauser, M. 1998. Champlain Canal fish barrier study. Aquatic Nuisance Species Digest 2(3):26-27.

Hendricks, M.L., J.R. Stauffer, Jr., C.H. Hocutt, and C.R. Gilbert. 1979. A preliminary checklist of the fishes of the Youghiogheny River. Chicago Academy of Sciences, Natural History Miscellanea 203:1-15.

Hewett, S.W., and Stewart, D.J. 1989. Zooplanktivory by alewives in Lake Michigan: Ontogenetic, seasonal, and historical patterns. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc. 118: 581-596

Hocutt, C.H., R.E. Jenkins, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1986. Zoogeography of the fishes of the central Appalachians and central Atlantic Coastal Plain. Pages 161-212 in C.H. Hocutt, and E.O. Wiley, editors. The Zoogeography of North American Freshwater Fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Houde, A.L.S., P.J. Saez, C.C. Wilson, D.P. Bureau, and B.D. Neff. 2015. Effects of feeding high dietary thiaminase to sub-adult Atlantic salmon from three populations. Journal of Great Lakes Research 41(3):898-906. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jglr.2015.06.009

Indiana Department of Natural Resources (INDNR).

Jenkins, R.E., and N.M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater Fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Johannsson, O.E., E.S. Millard, K.M. Ralph, D.D. Myles, D.M. Graham, W.D. Taylor, B.G. Giles, and R.E. Allen. 1998. The changing pelagia of Lake Ontario (1981 to 1995): A report of the DFO long-term biomonitoring (Bioindex) program. Canadian Technical Report of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. No. 2243. 278 pp.

Kelly, J.M. 2001. Bait-bucket biology. Post Standard, Syracuse, NY (June 28, 2001).

Ketola, H.G., P.R. Bowser, G.A. Wooster, L.R. Wedge, and S.S. Hurst. 2000. Effects of thiamine on reproduction of Atlantic salmon and a new hypothesis for their extirpation in Lake Ontario. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 129(2):607-612.

Kocik, J.F., and Jones, M.L. 1999. Pacific salmonines in the Great Lakes basin. In Great Lakes Fisheries Policy and Management: A Binational Perspective. Edited by W.W. Taylor and C. P. Ferreri. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, Mich. pp. 455-488.

Lee, D.S., C.R. Gilbert, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D.E. McAllister, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980 et seq. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC. (Cited as a work rather than as individual accounts in the interest of space).

Madenjian, C.P., R.O. O’Gorman, D.B. Bunnell, R.L. Argyle, E.F. Roseman, D.M. Warner, J.D. Stockwell, and M.A. Stapanian. 2008. Adverse effects of alewives on Laurentian Great Lakes fish communities. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 28(1):263-282.

Marsden, J.E., and M. Hauser. 2009. Exotic species in Lake Champlain. Journal of Great Lakes Research 35:250-265.

Miller, R.R. 1957. Origin and dispersal of the alewife, Alosa pseudoharengus, and the gizzard shad, Dorosoma cepedianum, in the Great Lakes. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 86:97-111.

Mills, E.L., J.M. Casselman, R. Dermott, J.D. Fitzsimons, G. Gal, K.T. Holeck, J.A. Hoyle, O.E. Johannsson, B.F. Lantry, J.C. Makarewicz, E.S. Millard, I.F. Munawar, M. Munawar, R. O’Gorman, R.W. Owens, L.G. Rudstam, T. Schaner, and T.J. Stewart. 2005. A synthesis of ecological and fish community changes in Lake Ontario, 1970-2000. Great Lakes Fishery Commission Technical Report No. 67. 92 pp.

Minckley, W.L. 1973. Fishes of Arizona. Arizona Fish and Game Department. Sims Printing Company, Inc., Phoenix, AZ.

Morris, J., L. Morris, and L. Witt. 1974. The Fishes of Nebraska. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, NE. 98 pp.

Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr. 1991. A Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America North of Mexico. The Peterson Field Guide Series, volume 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Page, L.M., and C.A. Laird. 1993. The identification of the nonnative fishes inhabiting Illinois waters. Report prepared by Center for Biodiversity, Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, for Illinois Department of Conservation, Springfield. Center for Biodiversity Technical Report 1993(4). 39 pp.

Phillips, G.L., W.D. Schmid, and J.C. Underhill. 1982. Fishes of the Minnesota Region. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN.

Pollock, W. - Tennessee Wildlife resources Agency, Nashville, Tennessee. Response to USGS/BRD-G non-indigenous questionnaire. 1992.

Pothoven, S.A., T.O. Höök, T.F. Nalepa, M.V. Thomas, and J. Dyble. 2013. Changes in zooplankton community structure associated with disappearance of invasive alewife in Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron. Aquatic Ecology 47:1-12.

Rand, P.S., D.J. Stewart, B.F. Lantry, L.G. Rudstam, O.E. Johannsson, A.P. Goyke, S.B. Brandt, R. O’Gorman, and G.W. Eck. 1995. Effect of lake-wide planktivory by the pelagic prey fish community in Lakes Michigan and Ontario. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 52:1546-1563.

Rohde, F.C, R.G. Arndt, J.W. Foltz, and J.M. Quattro. 2009. Freshwater Fishes of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC. 430 pp.

Shapiro, J., V. Lamarra, and M. Lynch. 1975. Biomanipulation: an ecosystem approach to lake restoration. In P. L. Brezonik, and J. L. Fox, eds. Proceedings of a Symposium on Water Quality Management Through Biological Control. Univ. Florida, Gainesville. 85-96.

Simonin, P.W., D.L. Parrish, L.G. Rudstam, P.J. Sullivan, and B. Pientka. 2012. Native rainbow smelt and nonnative alewife distribution related to temperature and light gradients in Lake Champlain. Journal of Great Lakes Research 38(Supplement 1):115-122.

Sinnott, T. - New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY.

Smith, S.H. 1970. Species interactions of the alewife in the Great Lakes. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 99(4):754-765.

Smith, P.W. 1979. The Fishes of Illinois. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL.

Smith, C.L. 1985. The Inland Fishes of New York State. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY. 522 pp.

Stauffer, J.R., Jr., J.M. Boltz, and L.R. White. 1995. The Fishes of West Virginia. Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA.

Tillitt, D.E., J.L. Zajicek, S.B. Brown, L.R. Brown, J.D. Fitzsimons, D.C. Honeyfield, M.E. Holey, and G.M. Wright. 2005. Thiamine and thiaminase status in forage fish of salmonines from Lake Michigan. Journal of Aquatic Animal Health 17:13-25.

Tilmant, J.T. 1999. Management of nonindigenous aquatic fish in the U.S. National Park System. National Park Service. 50 pp.

Todd, T. N. 1986. Artificial propagation of coregonines in the management of the Laurentian Great Lakes. Arch. Hydrobiol. Beih./Ergebn. Limnol. 22:31-50.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). 2008. Predicting future introductions of nonindigenous species to the Great Lakes. EPA/600/R-08/066F. National Center for Environmental Assessment, Washington, DC, 138 pp. http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=190305

Warner, D. - Cornell University.

Whitehead, J.P. 1985. FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 7. Clupeoid Fishes of the World (Suborder Clupeoidei). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of the herrings, sardines, pilchards, sprats, anchovies and wolf-herrings. Part 1 - Chirocentridae, Clupeidae and Pristigasteridae. FAO Fisheries Synopsis (125) Vol. 7, Pt. 1:303 pp.

FishBase Summary

Author: Fuller, P., E. Maynard, D. Raikow, J. Larson, A. Fusaro, and M. Neilson

Revision Date: 9/25/2015

Citation Information:
Fuller, P., E. Maynard, D. Raikow, J. Larson, A. Fusaro, and M. Neilson, 2017, Alosa pseudoharengus (Wilson, 1811): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=490, Revision Date: 9/25/2015, Access Date: 12/18/2017

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2017]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [12/18/2017].

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