Commencement Means Beginning Of End for Charles River Fish

Herring Fight for Lives

Just a few short blocks away from Harvard University's refined Commencement Week exercises, Charles River fish and herring gulls are waging the age-old battle for survival with savage brutality.

The sky is filled with wheeling, screaming gulls; and the river, its banks, and bridges, are littered with the gulls' victims: the rotting corpses of thousands of herring, catfish, and eels.

Cambridge old-timers explain the slaughter, which began early Sunday, as resulting from the usual migration of herring up the Charles. The experts, however, had other explanations, ranging from Saturday's heavy rains to pollution of the river.

"Biological Mess"

William H. Weston, professor of Cryptogramic Botany, Emeritus, said that a fish run is normal at this time of year, but termed such a large slaughter "a biological mess" and suggested that the "runs" weren't the entire answer.

George Clark, professor of Zoology, agreed and pointed out that catfish and eels do not migrate. He said he thought it likely that an anaerobic condition exists in the Charles River water that forces the fish to the top, where they are snapped up by the gulls.

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