River herring and shad play an important role in the circle of life along the Atlantic coast. They are prey for birds, marine mammals, and other fish at sea and in rivers and once supported vital commercial fisheries. Shad helped sustain the Continental Army during the American Revolution, which writer John McPhee describes in his book The Founding Fish.
Unfortunately, populations of shad and river herring have declined to historic lows, threatening coastal environments, economies, and traditions dating to Colonial times. States have invested millions of dollars in habitat restoration projects, including dam removals, while imposing fishing restrictions designed to bring these species back. Meanwhile, millions of shad and river herring continue to be killed by industrial fishing vessels targeting mackerel and sea herring in the ocean. They need strong federal conservation and management, including increased monitoring and reporting, establishment of catch limits, and better habitat protection.
Urge fisheries managers to protect river herring and shad through full federal conservation and management.
I strongly support, and urge NOAA Fisheries to approve, the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils’ efforts to establish federal management of river herring and shad in the Atlantic mackerel and herring fisheries.
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I urge NOAA Fisheries to approve the Mid-Atlantic Council’s Amendment 14 to the Mackerel, Squid, Butterfish Fishery Management Plan in its entirety. This plan includes a strong catch cap, 100 percent observer coverage on all mid-water trawl vessels, accurate dealer weighing of catch, a cap on at-sea dumping (slippage) of unobserved catch, and related accountability measures. NOAA Fisheries should also reverse its recent disapproval of 100 percent observer coverage, slippage caps, and dealer weighing requirements in the New England Council’s Amendment 5 to the Atlantic herring plan or offer alternative, equally effective solutions. In both regions, all parts of these amendments are necessary to foster river herring and shad conservation, and they were the result of an extensive public process and thoughtful deliberations.
Although these two amendments are an important start, the Magnuson-Stevens Act also requires, and I fully support, the designation of river herring and shad as stocks in federal herring and mackerel fishery management plans. The Mid-Atlantic Council is currently considering this designation in Amendment 15 to the Mackerel, Squid, Butterfish FMP, and New England has placed a priority on consideration of a similar amendment to its Atlantic herring plan. I strongly urge you to support adding river herring and shad to federal fishery management plans. This designation would enable the councils and NOAA Fisheries to:
• Set science-based annual catch limits.
• Identify and protect essential fish habitat.
• Gather better data and improve the population estimates of these fish.
• Coordinate with state efforts to restore river herring and shad.
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