In a court decision late Friday [March 8], U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler found that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has failed to take required action to address the catch of severely depleted populations of Atlantic river herring and shad by the New England industrial herring fleet.
The court decision is the result of a lawsuit filed in April 2011 by a coalition of recreational anglers and charter-boat fishermen, and conservationists.
The court found that a Fisheries Management Plan must protect all stocks that “require conservation and management” and may not unreasonably delay making such decisions. The court also found that NMFS failed to minimize bycatch in the herring fishery.
Atlantic (sea) herring, river herring and shad are critical components of the ocean and coastal ecosystem, serving as the most significant source of food for a variety of valuable fish such as cod, striped bass and tuna, as well as countless birds and mammals. Since 1985 there has been over a 90% decline in river herring populations. Shad is a separate species, but similarly threatened.
Lead Plaintiff Mike Flaherty of Wareham, Massachusetts, said, “Recreational fishermen have been sacrificing for years to bring back river herring, but when these fish are in federal waters it’s open season on them by industrial trawlers. With this ruling, this industry will finally need to play by the same rules as the rest of us.”
The court decision is the result of a lawsuit filed in April 2011 by a coalition of recreational anglers and charter-boat fishermen, and conservationists. As a result of the decision, NMFS is now required to protect river herring, and reconsider catch limits, bycatch regulations, and accountability requirements across the Atlantic herring fishery.
Read the decision here: