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River Herring Bycatch in the Atlantic Herring Fishery will be discussed at the next New England Fishery Management Council meeting on September 26, 2012 in Plymouth

River Herring Bycatch in the Atlantic Herring Fishery will be discussed at the next New England Fishery Management Council meeting on September 26, 2012 in Plymouth

On Wednesday, September 26 at 10:45AM in Plymouth the New England Fishery Management Council will be discussing the issue of river herring bycatch in the Atlantic Herring Fishery. The agenda for the meeting, and the link to register to listen on line can be found at the Council's website http://www.nefmc.org/

As you may have heard, during the June 2012 New England Fishery Management Council meeting in Portland, Maine the Council voted on several management measures that will affect river herring at sea. The Council is in the midst of preparing Amendment 5 to the Atlantic Herring Management Plan for implementation. River herring are being discussed because they are caught as bycatch in the Atlantic Herring fishery. Atlantic herring are a related species, but they complete their life cycle within salt water – they do not migrate into freshwater rivers like blueback and alewife herring (aka river herring) do. Atlantic herring and river herring are often schooling near each other in the ocean.

To determine how much river herring are being caught, the Council voted to require that all fishing vessels that fish for Atlantic Herring will be required to have a fisheries observer on board on every trip. The observer will examine the catch as it comes up and will quantify the amount of river herring.

The Council also voted in favor of launching a two-phase bycatch avoidance program similar to programs used in other fisheries. This program would be developed by a fishing industry group, the Sustainable Fisheries Coalition, working cooperatively with UMASS Dartmouth's School for Marine and Science Technology and theMassachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. The goal is to help vessels targeting Atlantic herring avoid fishing in areas that contain large quantities of river herring. For more information about the program check out the website http://www.umassd.edu/smast/smastnewsyoucanuse/bycatchavoidanceprograms/

Back in April of 2011 some local fishermen and a couple of environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that asked NMFS to consider more protections for river herring. The court issued an order in August 2012 (see link more details http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2012/federal-judge-strikes-down-latest-atlantic-herring-management-plan requiring that NMFS take action. At this point, it is unclear whether the management measures in Amendment 5 will satisfy the court order. This is one of the items the Council will be discussing on September 26.