This article was originally published by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Philadelphia portion of the Delaware River used to be so polluted from industrial waste and sewage runoff it was dubbed an ecological dead zone. For the American shad, that pollution was an obstacle blocking its way north.
Steve Meserve is the fourth generation to run his family’s fishery in Lambertville, at one time catching 10,000 shad there. Fifty years later, whole years passed when the family didn’t catch a single fish.
“Shad are kind of like the canaries in the coal mine because they need a substantial amount of oxygen in the waterway to survive,” Meserve said.
This year, the fishery’s challenges were heavy rains from a warming climate, not pollution sources.
Still, Meserve and others were able to get out on the river for a few net runs this spring.
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