Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Support The River Herring Ban

This coming Monday is a critically important meeting for River Herring (6PM 3/13/06 at Corless Auditorium, URI Bay Campus). As you may have read in a recent blog, populations of river herring in Rhode Island have crashed over the past 5 years. RIDEM observed decline of more than 95% across the board , with numbers dropping from the hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands since 2000.

At the hearing, DEM will take public comment on a proposed ban on all river herring possession, commercial and recreational, in marine and fresh waters of Rhode Island. The decline in river herring has been observed coast-wide, and this species is clearly in serious jeopardy. While we have made progress restoring water quality and building ladders and passage systems, the young herring are simply not returning from sea.

Why is this? Many different theories have been proposed to explain the decline including climate/water temperature shifts, overfishing, offshore intercepts of river herring in the Atlantic herring fishery, and illegal poaching to name a few. All of these theories are plausible and the answer may be a combination of many factors, but none of these theories has any real scientific support.

The only real option at this point is to close the fishery. This closure should include a comprehensive monitoring program. Save The Bay and the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers are calling for the formation of a special river herring committee, and for the state to provide an annual report and stock status. We are also working hard to promote river restoration and fish passage projects to open more habitat to the fish. If we don't take these steps immediately, river herring are in serious danger of disappearing forever.

If you want to help, send a letter to DEM supporting the proposed closure. A sample letter can be found
here. View the RIDEM press release here. Also feel free to e-mail me for more information at JT

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