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River Herring moratorium coming

If you have not heard by now, there is a river herring moratorium coming. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has passed the moratorium for the entire east coast starting January 2012. Every state will have to comply with it as well unless they can show scientific data to prove that their management plan allows for sustaining the population. We have until 2010 to produce this plan. However, it will not happen, due to lack of data and lack of money. Background
River herring and alewife populations were in good shape in the 70’s and 80’s but have dropped 90% in the last two decades, according to the data collected by the federal government. Local anglers who used to dip and catch herring in the rivers have noted the sharp decline as well. As a young kid I recall the herring filling pickup trucks and falling out as guys drove off to hours of scaling, gutting and salting. Now, if you see a guy with a bucketful, you are careful to note what he is casting to catch them and you pray you get a bucket of them yourself. Four states on the east coast have already closed their fisheries. Three New England states and North Carolina put a stop to harvest. Like rockfish, the river herring are anadromous fish, spending most of their life in the open ocean before hitting tidal rivers to spawn.

Upcoming Action
Since Virginia (VMRC) does not have the money to get the data together nor the time we are pretty much out of luck in opposing the ban. The cost for the collection is estimated by Jack Travelstead of VMRC (Fisheries Chief) to cost a quarter million a year. The ASMFC stated they needed four to six years of recreational herring catch data before they would even consider allowing Virginia to lift the ban.

The money would have to come from the General Assembly and we all know the chances of that happening.  Interestingly there is no known significant commercial harvest of the river herring in our waters. However, there is a serious bycatch problem off shore in federal waters. Federal waters are defined as waters three miles or more off the coast.

In a news release I found the following statement from ASMFC: “Preliminary analyses indicate that, in some years, the total bycatch of river herring by the Atlantic herring fleet alone could be equal to the total landings from the entire in-river directed fishery on the East Coast. Based on the Board’s request, the Commission will send a letter to the Secretary of Commerce supporting efforts underway by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils to effectively monitor bycatch of river herring in small mesh fisheries, and encouraging additional resources to support the cooperative efforts to better manage anadromous fisheries.

Additionally, the Commission will request that the Secretary of Commerce take emergency action with regard to implementing the bycatch monitoring measures recently under discussion with New England Council.

The Plan will be available by mid-June and can be obtained via the Commission’s website at www.asmfc.org under Breaking News or by contacting the Commission at (202) 289-6400. For more information, please contact Kate Taylor, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at (202) 289-6400 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

By Mark Fike

 

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