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For Release: Thursday, May 31, 2012

DEC Announces Proposed Changes to New York State River Herring Regulations

Public Comment Period Runs Through July 16

Changes to the regulations governing the harvest of river herring are being proposed to reduce fishing mortality and sustain New York populations, the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced today. River herring (alewife and blueback herring) are anadromous fish that spend most of their life in the ocean but return to their native rivers to spawn. The public comment period on the proposed rule runs from May 30 through July 16.

"River herring are part of New York's native fauna and need to be more intensively managed to provide long-term, sustainable populations," said Commissioner Joe Martens. "These unique fish are important to New York's waters and many New Yorkers enjoy their return to tidal waters each spring."

In the Hudson River, commercial and recreational anglers primarily use these fish as bait for striped bass, but some are taken for human consumption. Information on the status of the river herring populations is available for the Hudson River, but little information is available on their status in other New York waters. As a result, DEC proposes to restrict the harvest of river herring in the Hudson River and its tributaries while closing the river herring fisheries in all other New York waters where anadromous river herring are present.

The proposed rule change restricts the current fishery in the Hudson River, and all tributaries and embayments by:

  • establishing a recreational open season and a daily creel limit; permitting angling only (e.g. no nets) in the tributaries and embayments;
  • reducing the size of allowable nets in the Hudson River proper; and
  • requiring charter boats to register with the DEC to be eligible for a special boat creel limit.

The proposed rules will impact commercial fishers by:

  • increasing restrictions on net use and size;
  • establishing a 36-hour no-fishing escapement period for all fishing gears; and
  • increasing monthly reporting requirements for their catches.

The list of waters where the harvest of river herring will be prohibited are: the Delaware River and its tributaries, all streams in the Bronx, Kings, Manhattan, Nassau, Richmond, Suffolk, and Queens Counties, and Westchester County streams that empty into the East River or Long Island Sound.

The Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), a cooperative interstate fisheries management organization, of which New York State is a member, recently confirmed that coast- wide river herring stocks are depleted. The blockage of rivers by dams, habitat degradation and overfishing led to the depletion of the river herring stocks along the Atlantic coast.

In 2008, perceived declines in coastal stocks led ASMFC to prepare a stock assessment for river herring and to adopt an amendment to the ASMFC Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Shad and River Herring. This amendment requires states to adopt measures that would reduce fishing mortality and allow the river herring stocks to rebuild. New York State must promulgate these regulation changes to comply with the amendment and to protect the local river herring stocks.

The proposed regulations will be posted on the DEC website. Comments can be sent by email, or by mail to Kathy Hattala, NYSDEC-Hudson River Fisheries Unit, 21 South Putt Corners Rd., New Paltz, NY 12561. For additional information about DEC Marine Resources- Hudson River Fisheries programs, visit the DEC website or contact the Bureau of Marine Resources at (845)-256-3071 or by email.

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