River Herring - 2013
(Blueback herring and alewife)
Stock Status – Albemarle Sound Area - Depleted – Currently the stock is being managed in accordance with Amendment 1 to the North Carolina River Herring Fisheries Management Plan (FMP), which was approved by the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) in September 2007. Amendment 1 set aside up to 7,500 pounds for research at the discretion of the DMF’s Director, and implemented a no harvest provision, for commercial and recreational fisheries in the joint and coastal waters of North Carolina, beginning with the 2007 season. The DMF continues to collect data to monitor all stock recovery indicators as well as conduct sampling to identify and enhance spawning and nursery area habitats. The coastwide stock assessment, completed in 2012, found that river herring stocks are depleted coastwide to near historic low levels. Many factors are implicated in the failure to recover includes bycatch in offshore fisheries, water quality and reductions in spawning habitat due to dams and other blockages. Despite the fishing moratorium implemented in 2007, river herring in North Carolina are still considered overfished. The targets for considering the stocks to be rebuilt have not been met. In particular, recruitment and juvenile abundance are still well below the targets for rebuilding.
Other areas of the state – Unknown
Average Commercial Landings and Value 1997- 2006 – 286,171 lbs. /$120,545 (Commercial harvest prohibited in 2007)
2012 Research Set Aside Landings and Value – 678 lbs. / $678
Average Research Set Aside Landings and Value 2007-2012 – 1,182 lbs. / $ 1,087
Average Recreational Landings 1998-2006 – unknown 2007-2012 - no recreational harvest permitted
Status of Fishery Management Plan (FMP) - The ASMFC FMP for Shad and River Herring was approved in 1985 and Amendment 1 to the ASMFC FMP was approved October 1998. Amendment 2 to the ASMFC FMP for Shad and River Herring received final approval by the Shad and River Herring Management Board in May 2009. The Fishery Management Plan for river herring is currently being amended.
Research and Data Needs – Currently the DMF has expanded sampling to evaluate, protect, and enhance potential spawning and nursery areas, as well as assess blockages of historical spawning habitat throughout the Albemarle Sound and its tributaries. Spawning area surveys have been conducted in the Chowan River during the 2008-2013 spawning seasons, as well as the Yeopim River (2007), Meherrin River (2008), Scuppernong River (2009), Mackey’s Creek (2009), Perquimans River (2010), Little River (2010), Alligator River (2011), the Roanoke River (2012) and the Pasquotank River (2013).The DMF assessed all impediments in the Chowan River system, which will aid in future projects to expand and enhance potential spawning habitat. Additional research is needed to evaluate striped bass predation on juvenile alosines, determine population size in the various systems including other areas of the state, and determine the effects of bycatch.
2012 Regulations –There is a no harvest provision for commercial and recreational fisheries in joint and coastal waters of the state. The Wildlife Resources Commission has also implemented a no harvest provision for all inland waters of the state for river herring greater than 6 inches. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries passed rules that no longer permits river herring harvest in drainages flowing into North Carolina (Meherrin, Nottoway, Blackwater, Northwest, and North Landing rivers) as of January 1, 2008.
Size and Age at Maturity – Males: 6-10 inches fork length (FL) / 2-4 years; Females: 6-10 inches FL / 3–-5 years
Historical and Current Maximum Age – 9 years / 7 years
Juvenile Abundance Index– 2003–2012: blueback herring 2.78, alewife 1.02 2012: blueback herring 0.55, alewife 0.69
Habits and Habitats - Blueback herring and alewife are anadromous, spending the majority of life in the ocean, returning to fresh water to spawn. Spawning occurs from March through May in coastal rivers and tributaries. Juveniles spend their first growing season in fresh to brackish waters and migrate to more saline waters as the water temperatures decrease in the fall. Some may spend their first winter in the sounds, but majorities migrate to the ocean and remain there until sexual maturity. The Albemarle Sound was historically the center of the commercial and recreational fisheries for river herring.
For more information, contact Lindsey Staszak at Lindsey.Staszak@ncdenr.gov. (800-338-7805 or 252-264-3911).