Herring, mackerel and other small schooling fish are food for the whole ecosystem, including marine mammals, birds, and larger fish like tuna and striped bass. But the expansion of industrial-scale fishing is jeopardizing these key prey species and the marine environments and coastal communities they support.
Herring Alliance partner Earthjustice successfully litigated and won new protections for river herring and shad! In a recent court order, a federal judge ordered the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council to develop a comprehensive analysis for how to conserve these species, which must be completed by October 2016. The New England Fishery Management Council has stated that they plan to revisit the issue of adding river herring and shad into the herring management plan in several years. The positive outcome of the lawsuit will hopefully push the New England Council to protect river herring and shad by developing a similar set of robust analyses on these species.
More details can be found in the the Earthjustice blog post on the court's decision, which is reposted below.
The New England Fishery Management Council has again shown that they are unwilling to protect river herring and shad at sea. Last week at their meeting in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the Council voted to increase the amount of river herring and shad that can be caught by the herring fleet, even though the current caps have not even been in place for one year, and no science was presented suggesting that these populations have recovered. This is the wrong move. It is a slap in the face to all the people who work tirelessly to improve habitat and water quality in the hope that these fish will return to New England’s rivers and streams, and to the recreational fishermen who have respected state bans on catch for over a decade.
Fisheries officials and watershed conservation groups have tallied the spring migratory runs of river herring, and in parts of southern New England, 2015 likely will go down as a particularly terrible year for these critically important forage fish. Reports from across Connecticut and Rhode Island show the number of migrating fish declining dramatically compared with recent years, leading one prominent biologist to call this year “the worst in history” in his state.