CCA Comment on Shad & River Herring Management

Posted on September 30, 2013

Shad and river herring populations are at critically low levels of abundance.  Historically these species supported large scale fisheries and, more importantly, were key forage components in the Atlantic ecosystem.  They were important prey species for a host of recreationally important species, such as bluefish, striped bass, king mackerel; and tunas.  Their populations are a mere shadow of what they once were. 

Most states have either stopped or severely limited the harvest of river herring and shad in their state waters.  Through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, American and hickory shad are currently managed under Amendment 1, Technical Addendum 1 and Addendum I to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Shad and River Herring. These management documents established a five-year phase out of the ocean-intercept fishery for American shad, with the resultant closure on January 1, 2005. In addition, Amendment 1 has required fishing mortality targets for specific American shad in-river fisheries and implemented an aggregate 10-fish daily creel limit in recreational fisheries for American shad and hickory shad. Alewife and blueback herring (collectively termed river herring) are managed under Amendment 2 to the FMP for Shad and River Herring. The Amendment requires that state and jurisdictions develop sustainable fishery plans in order to maintain a commercial and/or recreational river herring fishery. Fisheries without such plans were required to close by January 1, 2012.

We are concerned that these management measures are not enough to begin to restore shad and river herring populations; they are still vulnerable to industrial scale harvest at sea in the Exclusive Economic Zone.  While we believe that state-based management is applicable for some species (such as Gulf of Mexico red snapper, for example), MSA does offer a good management system for commercial fisheries and it appears that adding shad and river herring to the Mid-Atlantic Council’s Squid, Mackerel and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan may offer significant benefits to managing this industrial fishery. The protections afforded by developing and adopting Amendment 15 and by developing science-based Annual Catch Limits, that include bycatch, will be critical to restoring these species.

Issues: Atlantic Coast