Stock Assessment Update: River Herring Remain Depleted Though Improvements Have Occurred


The following Press Release comes directly from ASMFC…this is the latest information on the status of River Herring stocks on the East Coast:



Alexandria, VA – The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Shad and River Herring Management Board reviewed the results of the 2017 River Herring Assessment Update, which indicates river herring remain depleted and at near historic lows on a coastwide basis. The “depleted” determination was used instead of “overfished” and “overfishing” because many factors, not just directed and incidental fishing, are contributing to the low abundance of river herring.

Alewife and blueback herring (collectively referred to as river herring) are anadromous species, spending the majority of their life at sea and returning to their natal streams to spawn. While at sea, mixing is believed to occur among multiple river-specific stocks and the incidental catch of river herring in non-targeted ocean fisheries is known to include both immature and mature fish.

The stock assessment update applied the same approaches used in the previous benchmark stock assessment with the incorporation of additional years of data (2011-2015). Of the 54 river herring stocks for which data were available, 16 experienced increasing abundance trends, 2 experienced decreasing abundance trends, 8 experienced stable abundance, 10 experienced no discernible trends in abundance due to high variability, and 18 did not have enough data to assess recent abundance trends (see Table 1, below).

While status on a coastwide basis remains unchanged, there are some positive signs of improvement for some river systems, with increasing abundance trends for a number of rivers in the Mid-Atlantic throughout New England region. While abundance in these river systems are still at low levels, dam removals and improvements to fish passage have had a positive impact on run returns. Since the completion of the 2012 assessment, NOAA Fisheries in partnership with the Commission have worked to provide state and local agencies with restoration project funding, leading to dam removals and fish passage improvement projects.

River herring are managed through Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Shad and River Herring, with the goal of conserving and protecting river herring along the coast. The Amendment prohibited state waters commercial and recreational fisheries beginning January 1, 2012, unless a state or jurisdiction had a Sustainable Fishery Management Plan (SFMP) approved by the Board. SFMPs must clearly demonstrate that the state’s or jurisdiction’s river herring fisheries meet sustainability targets which must be achieved and maintained. Amendment 2 also required states to implement fisheries-dependent and independent monitoring programs, and contains recommendations to member states and jurisdictions to conserve, restore, and protect critical river herring habitat. As of June 1, 2017, the Shad and River Herring Management Board approved sustainable fishery management plans for Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, and South Carolina. Upon receiving the results of the Stock Assessment Update, the Board did not take any management action at this time.

For a more detailed overview of the River Herring Stock Assessment Update go here –  The Overview is intended to aid media and interested stakeholders in better understanding the Commission’s stock assessment results and process.  The River Herring Stock Assessment Update will be available on the Commission website,, on the Shad and River Herring webpage under stock assessment reports. For more information, please contact Kirby Rootes-Murdy, Senior Fishery Management Coordinator, at or 703.842.0740.

A PDF version of the press release can be found here –