Save Blueback, Alewife & Atlantic Herring
Join with us in calling on the New England Fisheries Management Council to use an ecosystem based management approach that includes the importance of herring as forage to sustainably manage Atlantic herring while protecting river herring.
The Ocean River Institute was one of three plaintiffs in Flaherty v. Bryson, a case that found the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan violated the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (“MSA”), the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), and the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), because it did not sufficiently recognize the importance of Atlantic herring as prey for other commercially valuable fish.
For years we have asked the Council to manage Atlantic herring differently because of its role as a forage fish. We have seen the effects of managing herring using the traditional approach: one that manages a single fish species for the benefit of the directed fishery without regard for other fisheries or marine animals that depend on herring.
The Atlantic herring may not be the only prey fish in the region, however they are under more pressure today than ever before. Since 1985 the river herring – alewives, blueback, and shad – have declined by over 90%, leaving the Atlantic herring as one of the few available prey fish.
Striped bass, bluefish, tuna, whales, birds, and other marine life leave an area when there are insufficient herring to prey on. The whales – humpback, fin, minke, and bryde’s – also eat herring. Feeding whales and plunge-diving gannets allows for happier whale watchers. This results in more robust local economies. Whales rounding up herring in bubble nets rounds up financial gains for the businesses.
Caution is necessary to keep the herring population from completely collapsing. We do not want the herring to go the way of the sardine in the Pacific Ocean at Cannery Row, or the disappearance of Atlantic herring in United Kingdom waters.
Today, we are urging the New England Fisheries Management Council to choose the most sustainable alternatives offered for Amendment 8 to the Atlantic Herring Federal Management Plan. Because river herring tend to stay closer to the shores, the best alternative calls for a 50 mile wide year-round buffer zone out from the shore. Here, midwater trawlers with the capacity to catch 800,000 pounds of fish in a single trawl of the net would be prohibited from fishing. They must go further offshore to fish.
In the buffer zone along the shore, smaller fishermen like purse seines, small-mess bottom trawls, and fishing weirs may continue. This is a more equitable and sustainable fishery because herring are fast breeders. Letting them rebuild inshore will lead to greater numbers moving offshore.