Herring, mackerel and other small schooling fish are food for the whole ecosystem, including marine mammals, birds, and larger fish like tuna and striped bass. But the expansion of industrial-scale fishing is jeopardizing these key prey species and the marine environments and coastal communities they support.
On December 11, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted to take a proactive approach in how they will handle new fisheries that target forage fish, the small fish like herring that provide a critical link in ocean food webs. In much of U.S. federal waters, new fisheries begin when a market can be found for a new species, and a commercial fishing interest decides to go out and catch it.
More herring in the ecosystem and river herring protections finalized
We have some good news to share on the ongoing work to protect forage fish in New England.
On Thursday, November 20, the New England Fishery Management Council made a bold decision that could benefit the entire Northwest Atlantic ecosystem. Although the collapse of Gulf of Maine cod dominated the meeting, the Council and NOAA Fisheries took a step toward considering the larger ecosystem when setting catch limits for Atlantic herring – important food for cod and other animals.
In Virginia, Friends of the Rappahannock organizes students to restore oyster beds and control streamside erosion.
In Rhode Island, volunteers scoop nets full of migrating river herring up and over an obsolete mill dam.
In Maryland, citizen-scientists don hip waders to take samples of the aquatic life in Mattawoman creek.
These groups and dozens of others like them are the very epitome of "grass roots," community-level conservation, and the Herring Alliance is proud that they are members.