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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - River Herring - stock status report

Marine Fisheries

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River Herring

River Herring

Stock Status – Albemarle Sound Area – Depleted – Currently the stock is being managed in accordance with Amendment 1 to the N.C. River Herring Fishery Management Plan (FMP), which was approved by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) in September 2007. Amendment 1 set aside up to 7,500 pounds for research at the discretion of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) 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. Amendment 2 to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Interstate FMP for Shad and River Herring received final approval by the ASMFC Shad and River Herring Management Board in May 2009. Amendment 2 prohibits commercial and recreational fisheries in state waters coast wide beginning January 1, 2012, unless sustainability is demonstrated through state– specific management plans. A sustainable fishery plan for North Carolina was submitted and approved by the Technical Committee in 2010 which outlined the sustainability of the four day discretionary harvest. Amendment 2 also requires states to implement fisheries dependent and independent sampling programs which will assist in the development of a coast wide river herring stock assessment, which is expected to be completed in 2012.

Other areas of the state – Unknown

Average Commercial Landings and Value 1997– 2006 – 286,171 lbs./$120,545
(Commercial harvest prohibited since 2007)

2010 Research Set Aside Landings and Value – 1,765 lbs./$1,765

Average Research Set Aside Landings and Value 2007– 2010
– 1,201 lbs./$ 1,058

Average Recreational Landings 2007– 2010 – No recreational harvest permitted

Status of Fishery Management Plan (FMP) – The N.C. MFC approved the first North Carolina River Herring FMP in February 2000 for the Albemarle Sound Area. The Amendment 1 revision to the N.C. River Herring FMP was approved by the MFC in September of 2007.
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. Amendment 3 was approved in February 2010, and deals directly with American shad.

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– 2011 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), and Alligator River (2011). The DMF is assessing and evaluating all impediments in the Chowan River system, which will aid in future projects to expand and enhance potential spawning habitat. All of these surveys are continually expanding to cover all of Albemarle Sound and its tributaries to evaluate the effects of habitat loss on the river herring stock and provide protection for these habitat areas. 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.

Current Regulations –There is a no harvest provision for commercial and recreational fisheries in joint and coastal waters of the state. The N.C. 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 MaturityMales: 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 2001– 2010:Blueback herring 3.26, alewife 1.04
 2010: Blueback herring 0.55, alewife 4.13



                 

 

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 into 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 Kathy Rawls at Kathy.Rawls@ncdenr.gov or 1-800-338-7805 or (252) 264–3911.

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • (252) 726-7021 or 1-800-682-2632

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