skip to main content | skip to footer
North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - 15 River Herring SSR 2016

Marine Fisheries

Web Content Display Web Content Display

River Herring

River Herring — 2016

(Blueback herring and alewife)

Stock Status – Albemarle Sound Area – DepletedThe coastwide stock assessment, completed in 2012, found that river herring stocks are depleted to near historic low levels. Many factors are implicated in the failure to recover including 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. The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) continues to collect data to monitor all stock recovery indicators, as well as conduct sampling to identify and enhance spawning and nursery area habitats. In particular, recruitment and juvenile abundance are still below the targets for rebuilding.

Other areas of the state – Not available

Average Commercial Landings and Value – Commercial harvest prohibited in 2007

Average Recreational Landings Recreational harvest prohibited in 2007

Status of Fishery Management Plan (FMP) – River herring are jointly managed by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. River herring are included in the Interjurisdictional FMP, but the Marine Fisheries Commission also has a state FMP for river herring. 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. Currently the stock is being managed in accordance with Amendment 2 to the North Carolina River Herring Fisheries Management Plan (FMP), which was approved by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (NCMFC) in May 2015. Amendment 2 eliminates the research set aside season and removes river herring as an exception in the mutilated finfish rule governing the use of cut bait.

Research and Data Needs – Currently the NCDMF 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 2008-2015 spawning seasons, as well as the Yeopim River (2007 and 2014), Meherrin River (2008 and 2015), Scuppernong River (2009 and 2016), Mackey’s Creek (2009 and 2016), 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.

2015 Regulations –There is a no harvest provision for commercial and recreational fisheries in joint and coastal waters of the state. The North Carolina 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

Maximum Age – 9 years

Juvenile Abundance Index (number of fish per tow) 2006-2015 – Juvenile Anadromous Survey (Albemarle Sound June-October) blueback herring 2.59, alewife 2.24
2015 – blueback herring 5.13, alewife 7.13

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 the majority 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 in North Carolina.

For more information, contact Holly White at Holly.White@ncdenr.gov. (800-338-7805 or 252-264-3911).

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

NC logo

38337 FEEDBACK

Your input is valuable to us. Please send us your feedback.

What type of feedback would you like to send?*

Ask a Question Report a Problem Have a Concern Make a Comment

(If you would like us to respond please include your phone or e-mail.)

Your Question has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Problem has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Concern has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Comment has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

*If you are a DENR employee with an I.T. issue, please submit a DOTS ticket.