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Ongoing Management and Monitoring

Once abundant along the East Coast, populations of river herring (alewife and blueback herring) have declined compared to historical levels due to various factors. Governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, tribal groups, academia, industry, and others are currently engaged in numerous efforts to further river herring conservation. The below includes a summary of some management and monitoring efforts underway to conserve and learn more about river herring.


Federal statutes for the protection and conservation of public trust resources such as river herring are an important aspect to these ongoing efforts to conserve river herring. These include Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Federal Power Act, Anadromous Fish Conservation Act, Federal Water Pollution Control Act, Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, Coastal Zone Management Act and Estuarine Areas Act, Fisheries Act, Federal Land Management and other protective designations, Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, Titles I and III and the Shore Protection Act of 1988. For more information, please visit the Overview of Federal Statutes page.

Canada and the U.S. both have a variety of management efforts that help protect river herring and promote species awareness.  Examples of management initiatives underway to conserve river herring related to some of the statutes can be found below.

U.S. Atlantic Coastal Management

River Herring are managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and the 15 Atlantic coast states through Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Shad and River Herring. The ASMFC manages river herring stocks under the authority of section 803(b) of the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act (ACFCMA -16 U.S.C. 5101-5108).

Amendment 2  prohibits state waters commercial and recreational fisheries beginning January 1, 2012, unless a state or jurisdiction has a sustainable management plan reviewed by the Technical Committee and approved by the Management Board (see below for links to the approved plans). The Amendment defines a sustainable fishery as “a commercial and/or recreational fishery that will not diminish potential future stock reproduction and recruitment.” As a result, prohibitions on harvest (commercial or recreational) were extended to the following states/jurisdictions: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, Virginia (for all waters), Potomac River Fisheries Commission, Georgia and Florida.

Picture credit: Jerry Prezioso, NOAA

States with approved River Herring Sustainable Fishery Management Plans:

For further information see ASMFC's Shad and River Herring Management Page.

Federal Management

Commercial fisheries which incidentally catch river herring in Federal waters are managed by the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils (NEFMC and MAFMC, respectively) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) through the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Several management measures intended to reduce commercial fisheries interactions with river herring and shad in Federal waters are currently in place or are being developed. These management measures have been developed by the NEFMC, the MAFMC, the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office of NMFS, and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), and promulgated through Federal fishery management plans for Atlantic Herring and Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish. Because the seasonal and inter-annual distribution of river herring and shad are highly variable, the Councils, NMFS and ASMFC believe that the most effective measures to address river herring and shad catch are those that increase accounting of incidental catch, limit the Atlantic herring and mackerel fisheries when appropriate, and promote cooperative efforts with the industry to minimize incidental catch.

The types of management measures currently in place or being considered fall into five general categories:  

  1. Limitations on total river herring and shad catch; 
  2. Improvements to at-sea sampling by fisheries observers in Atlantic herring and mackerel fisheries; 
  3. Increased monitoring of Atlantic herring and mackerel fisheries; 
  4. River herring avoidance program; and 
  5. Inclusion of river herring in a Federal fishery management plan.  

Canadian Management (coming soon)


There are numerous ongoing efforts conducted by and/or funded by NMFS, ASMFC, and other partners to understand more about river herring populations in watersheds and marine environments. Some of these efforts are described on the Conservation Plan Monitoring page.