Note the dramatic decline in commercial landings of river herring from 1950 to 2005.
The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island seeks funding to support the development of a unique bycatch information system to restore river herring stocks by helping fishermen avoid them.
River herring, or alewives and blueback herring, are at historic lows. These ‘buckeyes’ as they are called locally, are an essential element in our coastal ecosystem. Their upstream migration from the Atlantic to freshwater streams to spawn is an ancient rite of spring in New England as osprey and striped bass soon follow. River herring have declined more than 95% in Rhode Island since the year 2000, and are vanishing across Southern New England. Reasons for the decline may include overfishing, climate change, shifts in predator-prey relationships, or some combination of factors.
Regulations prohibiting possession of river herring have been in effect since 2005, but stocks have not recovered. Recent scientific studies indicate that a high number of river herring are caught off of Rhode Island as ‘bycatch”, or unintentional catch, in the ocean Atlantic herring and mackerel fisheries.
TNC’s Rhode Island and Massachusetts chapters are participating with the Sustainable Fisheries Coalition, Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth in a study to evaluate river herring bycatch in Rhode Island Sound, Block Island Sound, and adjacent waters during the 2012 fishing season. Information from bycatch events will be loaded into a real-time data system. This information will be shared immediately with fishermen on the water so that they may avoid areas with river herring. This is a great example of an innovative partnership with the fishing industry toward better conservation and more sustainable fisheries.
For more information about this program, contact John Torgan, Director of Ocean and Coastal Conservation.
For more information about River Herring visit: