April 2, 2024

River Herring Rebound Requires Atlantic Herring Fisheries Management Changes

Dam removals alone cannot bring river herring back to southern New England; their loss hurts striped bass, tuna, bluefish, and many bird and wildlife species

While driving home last week from a public meeting in Buzzards Bay, Mass., to gather information about Atlantic herring management, there were two very prominent thoughts in my mind. Number one: There is an incredibly diverse set of user groups who rely on Atlantic herring and river herring in southern New England, both directly and indirectly; and number two: These are some of the most passionate people I have ever been around.

The participants of the scoping meeting, held by the New England Fishery Management Council as they flesh out Amendment 10 to the Atlantic Herring Fisheries Management Plan (FMP), were made up of commercial fisherman, tribal members and tribal staff, recreational anglers, town municipal employees, nonprofit organizations, volunteers tasked with springtime river herring counts, previous council staff, and even a musician from Martha’s Vineyard who holds river herring in such high regard he writes songs about them. The group was diverse, but the message was very clear: Everyone wants the Atlantic herring population to have a chance to rebound, and they want streams and rivers to run silver with river herring again each spring.

Photo credit: Connecticut DEEP Fisheries

What Is Amendment 10? How Does It Relate to River Herring?

The NEFMC is currently working to prioritize the development of new management measures through Amendment 10, an amendment to the existing Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan, to address ongoing stakeholder concerns and user conflict, attain optimum yield in the fishery, and improve river herring conservation. The council is exploring a number of management alternatives to minimize conflict, including seasonal and coastal area restrictions or closures and new possession limits. Like so many other attendees at last week’s meeting, I wanted to be sure they specifically consider the impacts of the fishery on river herring species – which include blueback herring and alewife – and on a similar species, American shad.

As a southern New England native, a self-labeled “river herring nut,” and the river herring biologist for the State of Connecticut, the desire for streams and rivers to run silver again in spring rang especially near and dear to my heart. Nineteen of the 26 individuals who spoke in favor of making conservation changes to the Atlantic Herring FMP also spoke to the importance of river herring to their communities, their ways of life, and to the ecosystems in their areas. They gave passionate testimony to the loss of these fish in their local spawning runs over the last two decades and provided detailed comments on the negative effects this loss has had on their lives and the environment around them.

Photo credit: Connecticut DEEP Fisheries

Stakeholders also explained why protecting these fish matters so much to them, and they provided solutions across the range of alternatives provided by the NEFMC to protect and enhance river herring populations. Some spoke to instituting time/area closures for Atlantic herring fisheries to protect river herring that were entering nearshore ocean waters when preparing to spawn, while others suggested reinstating a full-year buffer zone that would push Atlantic herring trawlers out to some distance from shore indefinitely.

There is good reason for these requests. Between 2014 and 2023, some 943 metric tons of river herring/shad bycatch were reported across the Gulf of Maine, Cape Cod, and Southern New England catch cap areas. Of this roughly 2 million pounds of bycatch, 75 percent (or over 7 million river herring, based on average fish weight) originated from the Southern New England Catch Cap area, from south of Cape Cod through Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and beyond. In stark contrast, only 17 percent came from the Cape Cod catch cap area and only just 8 percent came from the Gulf of Maine catch cap area.

This offers strong evidence that an existing time area closure for Management Area 1A off northern New England – which is basically a non-fishing buffer zone for Atlantic herring midwater trawlers – protects the majority of the river herring in that region between January and June, while the river herring are staging up to spawn in those rivers. The resulting 12 million-plus river herring that migrated into Maine’s waterways this year tell the rest of the story. Management Area 2, off southern New England, currently lacks similar protections, and is therefore suffering from historically low returns.

Photo credit: Connecticut DEEP Fisheries

Why You Should Care About River Herring

Throughout the public testimony portion of last week’s meeting, many other comments were made about river herring protections, and they all ended up in the same place. These user groups all wanted the council to take actions to enhance river herring avoidance in the Atlantic herring fishery and take other river herring catch reduction measures to better support ongoing coastwide restoration efforts for river herring. The commenters all appeared to truly and deeply care about these fish, like so many of us do along the Atlantic coast, for a range of reasons. I commend the NEFMC for giving everyone from the public who cares about restoring river herring not just a voice, but also a place to be heard. Last week, like at other scoping meeting venues this spring, was an incredibly important night for Atlantic herring and southern New England’s river herring, but it was also a very special night for those of us who have built our lives around these incredible fish.

What do I mean by that, and why should you also care about river herring? These fish provide an important food source for many fish and wildlife species, including economically valuable sportfish like striped bass, tuna, and bluefish and charismatic birds like ospreys, herons, and eagles. They also fuel recreation and tourism economies and maintain functioning ecosystems, and can serve as a valuable food and bait source themselves in areas with healthy populations.

Since the year 2000, tens of millions of dollars have been spent on restoring and reconnecting river herring spawning habitats in southern New England through water quality projects, dam removals, and fish passage constructions, and yet their numbers continued to fall. In response, there has been a complete southern New England-wide ban on the recreational take of these fish for nearly two decades, and those who were told this closure would protect and bring the fish back watched as the numbers continued to fall, while populations to the north and south, with similar restrictions, continued to rise.

Photo credit: Kevin Job

Individuals at the meeting spoke about this inability of freshwater infrastructure efforts alone to address the problem and lamented that they haven’t been able to keep one river herring in 18 years in Massachusetts. This despite the fact that the council’s Atlantic herring management plan still allows the Atlantic herring industry to take and profit from river herring caught incidentally as bycatch in the fishery.

This industrial take is limited by catch caps, but these catch caps still allow around 3.6 million river herring to be legally landed each year. Of this catch cap, 79 percent is allowed from the waters around southern New England and Cape Cod: the very areas currently suffering the most from poor river herring numbers. Similarly, the waters to the southeast of Nantucket, deemed the Georges Bank Catch Cap Area, has no cap on the number of river herring taken, allowing continuous commercial Atlantic herring fishing regardless of the number of river herring landed as bycatch. Couple this with incredibly low observer coverage to track the take of river herring, and the concerns of those in attendance last week are very clear.

One big question is on all our minds: Why does the area with the most severely depleted river herring currently allow the highest river herring landings?

What You Can Do

River herring populations in southern New England need your help, and your voice can still be heard by the NEFMC. With potential management measures designed to address the catch of shad and river herring in the directed Atlantic herring fishery, including revisiting catch caps and/or time/area closures included in the NEFMC’s Amendment 10 scoping documents, this is your chance to speak in person or write to the NEFMC in support of enhancing river herring avoidance and catch reduction in the Atlantic herring fishery.

Provide a personalized email comment to the council before April 30 or attend an in-person meeting in your state. Your input is vital if we want the NEFMC to best protect our herring resource.

Kevin Job, a native New Englander, is a fisheries biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. His work focuses on diadromous fishes including river herring and shad.

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April 1, 2024

New Video Explains Why Some PA Trout Streams Lack Full Protections

TRCP’s short production explains how the state’s best waters receive necessary safeguards, but also why a growing list awaits full protections

With Pennsylvania’s 2024 trout fishing season opener slated for this Saturday, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is sharing a short explainer video that highlights the problem of a growing backlog of streams that have been recommended for additional environmental designations, but have not yet received them.

The hunting and angling-focused conservation nonprofit will post the video (embedded below) on social media channels in its entirety on April 6, the Pennsylvania trout fishing opener, to ensure that anglers are aware of the issue.

Some trout streams that the state’s Fish and Boat Commission have designated as Wild Trout or Class A streams, and recommended for full protection to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection years ago, still haven’t received these safeguards. Thus there is a growing backlog of streams awaiting designation at the department. TRCP’s video will ensure that anglers are aware of the problem and urge officials to resolve the bottleneck in the process by describing it in an easy-to-understand structure.

“We want to ensure that everyday anglers are aware of how Pennsylvania’s streams and trout fishing opportunities are safeguarded, and how they can take actions to help protect their favorite waters,” said Alexandra Kozak, Pennsylvania field manager for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This is a somewhat complicated process, but with a single issue preventing the realization of full protections for many streams.”

In Pennsylvania, as in other states, TRCP works to build coalitions from the sporting and conservation communities to identify and work toward shared policy goals around conserving habitat and funding conservation programs. The organization seeks to advance public policy in the state’s General Assembly through strategic campaigns, grassroots organizing, and scientific research. This is accomplished by maintaining relationships with the Governor’s office, state agencies, hunting and fishing organizations, and regional and local businesses that help champion a hunting, fishing, and conservation-focused agenda.

Top issues TRCP focuses on in Pennsylvania include securing water quality protections for the state’s trout streams and the Chesapeake Bay watershed, ensuring legislative support for the outdoor recreation economy, defending hunter and angler access, and promoting the benefits of state-level conservation funding.

To learn more about TRCP’s conservation efforts in Pennsylvania, visit the organization’s webpage dedicated to state issues at trcp.org/pa.

You can also send DEP a message to clear the streams backlog through our simple comment form.

Banner Image Credit: Noah Davis

March 27, 2024

In the Arena: Lindsay Agness

TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation.

Lindsay Agness

Hometown: Honeoye Falls, New York
Occupation: Retired. Previously an IT Director for Eastman Kodak Co. and Project Director for a local health care system.
Conservation credentials: VP of Youth Education, New York State Council Trout Unlimited; Trout Unlimited Costa 5 Rivers program volunteer; Girls Scouts STREAM Girls Program volunteer; New York State Fishing Guide.

Lindsay Agness is an angler, conservationist, and passionate outdoor educator. Introduced to the outdoors by her grandparents, Agness has effectively used her passion for fly fishing to engage youth, teens, and college students on the importance of conservation and stream health to ensure that the joy of fishing carries on for future generations. Agness was inducted into the New York State Outdoorsman Hall of Fame in 2022 for her fisheries and conservation focused volunteer work.

Here is her story.

I was blessed to be born into a hunting and fishing family.  My grandparents were born in Germany in 1902 and then came to the U.S. They introduced me to the outdoors— we had a lot of woods to run and play in.  My grandfather, an avid deer hunter and fisherman, owned a summer cottage on Honeoye Lake in upstate New York, and he and my grandmother taught me about fishing there. My grandmother was a great role model for me, and she is the one who taught me to love the outdoors.

Today, my favorite place to fish is in the hills of Potter County, Pennsylvania in the Susquehannock State Forest area for wild brook trout. These small mountain streams are so pristine, and the mountains are fun to explore. The wild book trout there are so beautiful. I can spend hours fishing and just get lost in nature. There is little cell phone reception, so you are completely off the grid and the evening hatches are unbelievably spectacular!

My most memorable outdoor adventure was fishing for arctic char in Bristol Bay, Alaska. I did a trip with The Lodge at 58 North and guides Kate and Justin Crump.  We started each day with an early morning fly-out on a float plan to the Becharof National Wildlife Refuge and fished in gorgeous scenery for beautiful arctic char. It is my favorite fishing memory and the excitement of that day is still with me.

Where I live in New York, the biggest conservation challenge is low water levels and higher than normal water temperatures. They are stressing out our trout species. These challenging conditions, over extended periods of time, can be lethal for our brown trout, brook trout and rainbow trout. I believe that the survival of these species is critical, and it will ensure that future generations enjoy the sport of fly fishing. Our fisheries cannot take care of themselves, and I believe that our actions can speak for the trout. We need to champion our local watersheds for future generations.

I currently serve as the Vice President for Youth Education on the New York State Council for Trout Unlimited.  As a volunteer, I work with youth, teens, and college clubs to teach about conservation, stream health, fishing and how to be stream ambassadors through a variety of initiatives. Our youth and teens need to be engaged and exposed to the joy of the outdoors and nature — and I believe that these experiences also improve their physical and mental health.

Through the Stream Explorer programs like Trout in the Classroom, which put aquariums in schools to raise trout for release into local streams, we have partnered with over 272 schools in New York, educating over 21,828 students on cold water conservation.  We also help educate teens through Girls Scouts STREAM Girls programs and the Scouts BSA merit badge — teaching the basics of stream ecology, stream science and fly fishing. Additionally, we engage with the local college fishing clubs across 10 college campuses in New York through the Trout Unlimited Costa 5 Rivers programs, fostering the involvement of students in local conservation work near their college campuses.

Conservation is a huge part of my outdoor life.  I love fly fishing for trout and being an ambassador for my local waters is essential to the efforts of maintaining a healthy population of fish. I am steadfastly committed to keeping our local streams and trails litter free and supporting our local Trout Unlimited chapter in tree planting and stream conservation work.

Do you know someone “In the Arena” who should be featured here? Email us at info@trcp.org

Hunters and anglers have always been the unsung heroes of conservation in America, quietly paying it forward every time we buy a license, a box of ammo, or a tank of boat fuel. We know you’re not satisfied with simply going hunting or fishing and then going home—so go the extra distance.

Click here and help us wake the woods by taking action on the conservation issues that matter right now.

March 21, 2024

Tracking Congress: The Impact of 2024 Budget Allocations on Hunters and Anglers 

Appropriators in Congress recently began passing fiscal year 2024 funding bills that contain both highlights and disappointments for conservation.

After arduous negotiations, Congress has finally started to pass funding bills for fiscal year 2024. These bills bring about significant changes to the funding levels of programs that hold a special place in the hearts of hunters and anglers. Listed below are some highlights and disappointments from the recently enacted federal spending bills. 

Robust Funding for Everglades Restoration  

Everglades restoration has come a long way since the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was authorized by Congress in 2000. Harmful discharges from estuaries have been reduced, wetlands have been restored, and greater amounts of water are flowing from north to south. However, there is still work to be done, including the continued construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir. When completed, the reservoir will hold overflows from Lake Okeechobee and filter the water before sending it south. This $425 million investment will boost Everglades restoration efforts and improve hunting and fishing opportunities.  

Increased Funding for WaterSMART 

WaterSMART grants provide financial assistance to water managers for initiatives aimed at conserving and optimizing water usage, implementing renewable energy, exploring water marketing tactics, mitigating conflict risks in high-risk water areas, and achieving other sustainability objectives in the western United States. The increased funding for WaterSMART grants will help safeguard habitats that sustain fish and wildlife and are important to hunters and anglers. 

Increased Funding for Atlantic and Pacific Salmon for National Marine Fisheries Services 

The populations of Atlantic and Pacific Salmon both feature endangered subpopulations.  In the Pacific, this funding has led to stabilization and recovery of several subpopulations, such as the chum, Snake River Chinook, Lower Columbia Steelhead, and Lower Columbia River Coho salmon. These increased funds will continue to bolster habitat restoration, improvements to upstream and downstream fish passage, and other conservation efforts aimed at contributing to higher functioning watersheds and better-quality fishing opportunities for future generations. 

Good Neighbor Authority Extended to National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 

Good Neighbor Authority allows federal agencies to authorize states, counties, and tribes to conduct land management and restoration projects on federal lands. GNA is a win-win-win as it enables federal agencies with limited capacity to partner with states, counties, and tribes to achieve large-scale forest, watershed, and rangeland health outcomes.  By extending the GNA to the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hunters and anglers will continue benefiting from the collaboration it fosters to conduct land management and restoration projects on new swaths of federal land. 

Funding Cuts at The Bureau of Land Management  

Among the Bureau of Land Management programs receiving funding cuts are the Recreation Management program, Resource Management Planning program, Rangeland Management program, Wildlife Habitat Management program, and the Aquatic Habitat Management program. The funding cuts will impact the BLM’s ability to help manage and improve vast amounts of public land for hunting and fishing.  

Funding Cuts to the National Wildlife Refuge System 

For the past fifteen years, the National Wildlife Refuge System has functioned with a Fiscal Year 2010 budget. Not once in a decade and a half have their funds been adjusted for inflation, and this lack of investment is reflected in the number of full-time staff diminishing even as the system expands. Low staffing levels directly affect the system’s ability to conduct habitat restoration and management, provide visitor services, and support law enforcement. The National Wildlife Refuge System budget saw a 3% budget cut from 2023, which means more staff dedicated to managing these public lands, and the hunting and fishing opportunities they provide, will be lost.  

Funding Cuts at The U.S. Geological Service   

The U.S. Geological Service saw cuts of up to 5% for its scientific research programs focused on Chronic Wasting Disease, controlling invasive species, and adapting to climate change. Investment in CWD research is essential as the always-fatal disease has now been detected in 32 states. The cost to control and eradicate aquatic invasive species in the U.S. amounts to more than $100 billion each year.  

Funding Cuts at The U.S. Forest Service  

The Wildlife and Fisheries Habitat Management, and Recreation, Heritage, and Wilderness initiatives of the USFS received cuts of up to 20%. These cuts will hamper the ability of USFS to manage habitat on their lands, and research best practices to manage forests and reduce wildfire risk. The Wildlife and Fisheries Habitat Management funding goes towards restoring fish and wildlife habitat, conserving threatened species, and maintaining wildlife habitat connectivity on USFS land. The Recreation, Heritage, and Wilderness initiative provides funds for improving access to and recreation on USFS land, including planning resources, trail management, and the off-highway vehicle program.

Hunters and anglers have always been the unsung heroes of conservation in America, quietly paying it forward every time we buy a license, a box of ammo, or a tank of boat fuel. We know you’re not satisfied with simply going hunting or fishing and then going home—so go the extra distance. You can take action on the conservation issues that matter right now. Click here to get started.

March 8, 2024

Pennsylvania’s Trout Fishing Streams: Why They Lack Full Protection

There’s a growing list of popular trout fishing streams awaiting full protection at the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. What can anglers do about it?

In this short video, we explain how the state of Pennsylvania is working to protect the cold, clean waters that trout require, but is coming up short for one simple reason.

Pennsylvania anglers who have followed TRCP for the last few years are probably aware that four times each year, the state’s Fish and Boat Commission proposes a number of streams for conservation protections. These streams are given a designation based on how sustainable their trout populations are, and we help ensure that our members’ voices are heard by the state during each of these cycles.

What folks might not understand is that some trout streams the commission recommended for full protection to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) years ago still haven’t received these safeguards – or why that’s happening.

It’s time DEP clears the backlog and conserves Pennsylvania’s best trout waters.  Make your voice heard and send DEP a message through our simple comment form.

Learn more and explore a map of backlogged Pennsylvania trout streams here.



Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.

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