April 22, 2024

Blue Catfish in the Chesapeake are Gobbling Up Everything in It

This aquatic invasive species eats the striped bass, menhaden, and blue crabs so vital for the Bay’s health, recreational fishing, and economy

Great tasting: check. Will pull the rod from your hand: check. High chance of success: check.

It probably sounds like I’m talking about peak-season Gulf redfish or Long Island striped bass, but believe it or not, I’m talking about blue catfish – an incredibly resilient invasive species that is taking over the Chesapeake Bay’s waterways and harming important fisheries as it gobbles its way through them.

While native to middle America’s Mississippi and Ohio River watersheds, blue catfish are considered an aquatic invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay. Like other AIS threats around the country, their presence negatively impacts recreational fisheries, ecosystems, and economies. When TRCP and its partners convened an AIS commission two years ago, we had harmful species just like this in mind.

Photo Credit: Rocky Rice

As the largest species of catfish in North America, blue cats can exceed 100 pounds thanks to a voracious appetite, unmatched adaptability, and a willingness to live just about anywhere and eat just about anything. So what are they doing in the Bay, and what can be done to blunt their impacts?

Unforeseen Consequences

In the mid-1970s, the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries were overfished and highly polluted. In response, fisheries managers in Virginia decided they needed to stock a different type of fish – a hearty specimen that could handle the poor conditions, offer anglers a good fight, and provide nice table fare. They settled on blue catfish. An added benefit they saw to this freshwater species was that it wouldn’t be able to spread beyond the targeted rivers.

“They thought because they are river fish they wouldn’t tolerate the saltwater conditions in the Bay,” said Dr. Noah Bressman, assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Salisbury University. “But they were wrong.”

Managers initially released blue catfish into the James and Rappahannock rivers, but they have since spread widely throughout most of the upper Bay. Today, blue catfish can be found in every major tidal river in Maryland, and in some locations make up as much as 70 percent of the total biomass.

Photo Credit: Noah Bressman

“As an apex predator, invasive blue catfish continue to impact the ecological balance of the Chesapeake Bay by competing with native species for important forage species like menhaden and herring,” said Dave Sikorski, executive director of Coastal Conservation Association Maryland.   

Not a Picky Eater

Dr. Bressman is a top expert on invasive blue catfish, researching such areas as their primary diet, feeding behavior, and ecology in the Bay. His lab uses boat-based electrofishing with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to catch hundreds of thousands of blue catfish for research. What they’ve learned is that these generalistic, opportunistic omnivores—much like coyotes or cockroaches—will eat anything.

Bressman’s research has turned up a 47-pound catfish with a whole adult wood duck in its stomach, and a 30-inch catfish with a 19-inch striped bass inside. Blue catfish eat many millions of blue crabs per year, and readily gorge on white perch, menhaden, striped bass (also known in Maryland as rockfish), even turtles and muskrats and their own young. On the Eastern Shore, they also target other important forage fish species – alewives and blueback herring. Tissue sampling evidence even suggests they are eating the eggs of striped bass, herring, and other fish, and as top predators they also compete with sportfish for the same prey.

Photo Credit: AKZOphoto

“People think of catfish as slow-moving bottom feeders,” Bressman said. “But these are active predators. They eat anything and everything they can get their mouth around.”

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em

Ask anyone, and they will tell you this problem is not going to go away. Bressman said that blue catfish are the most abundant fish, by biomass, in the rivers around the Bay. The problem has gotten so bad in the last couple decades that it’s actually generated a growing commercial fishery.

“What started as me targeting striped bass and hard crabs, and only fishing for blue catfish in between, has now gotten reversed,” said Rocky Rice, owner and operator of Piccowaxen Creek Seafood.

Rice has been commercially targeting blue catfish in the Potomac River for the last 12 years. He started fishing for these invasives merely to generate income in slow seasons, but now blue catfish are the main focus of his operation. Using primarily longlines and hoop pots, he targets fish in the best eating range of about 3 to 10 pounds.

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

And Rice is not alone. In 2022, commercial harvesters on the Potomac reported more than 3.1 million pounds of blue catfish landed, according to the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. This number far exceeds those for all other finfish species, except menhaden, harvested in the brackish river. By comparison, striped bass was the next highest fish species commercially landed at 428,000 pounds. And that’s just in the Potomac.

Unlike striped bass, whose numbers have been trending lower for years, blue catfish populations are practically impossible to eradicate, or even stunt. Rice says it’s one reason he targets this invasive.

“Granted I’m a fisherman and I need to make money,” Rice said. “But if I can minimize negative impacts on our native species also it’s a win-win.”

Dr. Bressman says just to keep the blue catfish population stable, fishermen must remove 15- to 30-million pounds of catfish from the Chesapeake Bay each year, and much more to reduce it. He asserts that without active human intervention, catfish could likely become the dominant predator in brackish portions of the Bay.

Photo Credit: Rocky Rice
Fun to Catch

So the best solution to keeping blue catfish populations in check, and to help protect native species, is one that offers real rewards: Go fishing. Blue cats are known for growing big, fighting hard, and tasting far better than most people expect. They’re also fairly simple to coax a bite from, and in Maryland there’s no catch limit.

If you’ve got a rod and reel, and willingness to target a different sort of fish, Rice says you can fish virtually anywhere in the brackish and fresh portions of the upper Bay. Dr. Bressman can back this up. In a previous tournament targeting blue cats, he fished from shore to pass the time while he waited for boats to come back in for weigh-ins. He had to stop one hour into the eight-hour tournament, and still almost won the shore fishing category with a half-dozen fish.

Photo Credit: Noah Bressman

CCA Maryland, along with partners like Yamaha Rightwaters, is working to raise awareness with recreational anglers to help get them into the game. To target the threat of aquatic invasive fish species in the state, they offer fishing tournaments and other events to help engage anglers. A good example is the Great Chesapeake Invasives Count, which launched April 1 and runs through March 31, 2025.

“To combat this looming issue, and empower anglers to do their part, CCA Maryland is proud to partner with Fish & Hunt Maryland, Maryland DNR, Maryland’s Best Seafood, and others to promote the opportunities for fishing that invasive catfish present, and support data collection efforts to help guide future management actions,” said Sikorski.   

Even Better to Eat

“These aren’t your muddy-bottom catfish,” Bressman said. “They eat things we like to eat and that makes them taste better than other catfish.”

Bressman, Sikorski, and Rice all say they love dining on firm, flaky blue catfish filets, which taste quite similar to those of striped bass – largely because both species are active predators that compete for the same prey. The culinary value of this fish is catching on. Maryland’s Best, a state-run program that connects consumers with locally sourced agricultural products, offers a listing of 16 grocery stores and 24 restaurants that sell wild-caught Chesapeake blue catfish, to help support the state’s watermen and fight this invasive.

“It makes no sense for someone to buy a catfish that comes from overseas, because we have a better quality product right here,” Rice said. “We have to eat our way through this problem.”

Photo Credit: Stephen McFadden

Rice says he personally likes to deep fry the white, flaky filets, but has broiled and blackened them too. He’s even had blue catfish pot pie. He said their versatility and palatability is probably why chefs like these fish so much.

“I’ve fed it to a lot of my friends who’d said they didn’t like catfish,” he said, “and now that they’ve had it it’s one of their favorite foods.”

Do Your Part

If you do head out looking for blue catfish in the Bay area, be sure to share the photos and filets with family and friends – especially via online imagery – to help drum up interest. And whether or not you target these fish, if you ever catch one, be sure to not throw it back into the water alive (an exception being some parts of Virginia, where you need to be aware of a daily 20-fish creel limit and allowance for only one catfish over 32 inches).

If you don’t want to catch or cook blue catfish, you can always support Bay-area businesses that offer locally sourced blue catfish filets. The bottom line is that dealing with blue catfish is an all-hands-on-deck situation, so the conservation community needs a lot of people working to tackle it in different ways.

“We need a cultural shift,” Bressman says. “The more catfish you eat, the more striped bass and blue crabs will be in the Bay.”

Learn about TRCP’s AIS Report here.

The TRCP is your no-B.S. resource for all things conservation. In our weekly Roosevelt Report, you’ll receive the latest news on emerging habitat threats, legislation and proposals on the move, public land access solutions we’re spearheading, and opportunities for hunters and anglers to take action. Sign up now.

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In the Arena: Edgar Diaz

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.

Edgar Diaz

Hometown: Austin, Texas
Occupation: Founder of Sight Line Provisions.
Conservation credentials: Championing conservation efforts on-the-ground and through his company.

Edgar Diaz’s lifelong connection to the outdoors, shaped by childhood adventures in Baja and Southern California, led him to found Sight Line Provisions—a brand deeply committed to conservation. With a blend of personal passion and professional dedication, Edgar advocates for responsible stewardship of our wild spaces, inspiring others to join him in protecting the outdoors for years to come. 

Here is his story.

From my earliest memories, the outdoors has been my sanctuary. Those family vacations to the beaches of Baja and the mountains of Southern California are etched in my mind like the lines my father used to make on our old powder blue tent marking each destination we visited as a family. Camping on bluffs in Ensenada and by the Kern River, I found solace and excitement in nature, especially when paired with my father’s love for fishing.

Edgar has always been called by the ocean and mountains where he developed his love of fishing, mountain biking, and birding. His connection to the outdoors started with these activities.

Today, if I could pick any place to hunt or fish, it would undoubtedly be Baja California. The allure of chasing California quail in the morning, followed by the exhilaration of pursuing roosterfish, fills my dreams. I recall a particularly memorable fishing trip where I stumbled upon a California quail —and it was a perfect blend of my passions. I know this trip would be an epic cast and blast.

Conservation has become more than just a cause; it’s a way of life for me. As the founder of Sight Line Provisions, I’ve woven conservation into the fabric of our brand. Preserving our natural resources isn’t just a duty; it’s essential for our enjoyment of the outdoors. Here in Central Texas, I’ve personally witnessed the impact of conservation efforts, especially through organizations like Guadalupe Trout Unlimited, which has transformed our local fishery into a gem for our community.

Yet, despite the progress, challenges loom large, none more pressing than water conservation. Here in the Texas Hill Country, water is a precious resource, one that’s often wasted, diverted, or even stolen. It’s a battle we must fight together as a community, safeguarding our natural treasures for future generations.

For me, being involved in conservation isn’t just about reducing my footprint—it’s about leaving a legacy. It’s about ensuring that the wild places I love remain for those who come after me. Through Sight Line Provisions, I strive to support the very organizations and efforts that protect the landscapes and waters that have shaped me.

Sight Line Provisions partners with organizations like Captains for Clean Water, Trout Unlimited, The Mayfly Project, and the F-Y-S-H Project to raise funds and awareness for issues important to the sporting community.

But conservation isn’t just about protecting nature; it’s about preserving a way of life. It’s about passing on the tradition to the next generation of hunters and anglers. In a world where progress threatens to overshadow the simple joys of the outdoors, it’s our responsibility to ensure that future generations have the same opportunities to connect with nature that we’ve had. It’s about staying informed, acting responsibly, and most importantly, getting that younger generation into the great outdoors. After all, they are the stewards of tomorrow, and it’s up to us to equip them with the knowledge and passion necessary to protect our wild spaces for generations to come.

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

The TRCP is your no-B.S. resource for all things conservation. In our weekly Roosevelt Report, you’ll receive the latest news on emerging habitat threats, legislation and proposals on the move, public land access solutions we’re spearheading, and opportunities for hunters and anglers to take action. Sign up now.

April 17, 2024

In the Arena: Ward Burton

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.

Ward Burton

Hometown: Halifax, Virginia
Occupation: Former NASCAR driver.
Conservation credentials: Founder of the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation.

Ward Burton’s NASCAR driving career stretched across most of two decades. He won five Cup Series races, including the 2002 Daytona 500, 2001 Southern 500, and four Xfinity races before retiring in 2007. 

As an avid sportsman and conservationist, he founded the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation in 1996. A quarter century later, the organization oversees more than 10,000 acres in Virginia and Pennsylvania and has helped landowners in Virginia and Pennsylvania conserve over 45,000 acres of land by developing conservation models aimed at sustainable habitat management, wise forestry management, stream water mitigation practices, and other tools to focus on preserving the integrity of the land and its wildlife.

Here is his story.

Ward Burton, a former NASCAR driver turned conservationist, has a deep-rooted connection to the outdoors that stems from his upbringing in Halifax, Virginia. Introduced to hunting, fishing, and nature by his grandfather, Burton’s childhood experiences instilled a lifelong passion for wildlife and land stewardship. Burton’s work ethic and unwavering persistence in spending time outdoors paved the way for his profound appreciation of nature’s wonders and ultimately led to the founding of the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation in 1996.

The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation has helped landowners in Virginia and Pennsylvania conserve over 45,000 acres of land and owns and manages over 10,000 acres.

“I’ve never felt it was a choice,” said Burton, “I believe strongly that conservation is an inherent responsibility and I hope that my, and my foundation’s, efforts to share that message have helped impart that to our future generations.”

But his passion for the outdoors extends far beyond his home state.

“Being from the east coast, I am enthusiastic about learning what different habitats support different types of wildlife and hunting and fishing opportunities. I’ve spent time in a lot of cool places, British Columbia, Wyoming, Montana, the Florida Everglades, all for fishing and hunting. Hoping to get back to all of those areas soon.

Burton’s journey as a conservationist began amidst his racing career, inspired by conversations with influential figures in wildlife management. In collaboration with like-minded individuals, he founded the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, driven by a shared commitment to conservation.

The mission of the WBWF is to promote the sustainability of our nation’s natural resources through conservation, land management, outdoor outreach, and educational practices.  Since their inception, the foundation has helped landowners in Virginia and Pennsylvania conserve over 45,000 acres of land and owns and manages over 10,000 acres.

The foundation develops and sustains their conservation models by managing habitat for endangered species, practicing wise forestry management, stream water mitigation, and prescribed burns to control non-native growth, and other tools to preserve the integrity of the land. Through partnerships with local, state, and federal organizations, and by working directly with landowners, the WBWF shares and advocates for conservation and land management best practices nationwide. 

Recognizing the critical role of conservation in preserving outdoor pursuits for future generations, Burton emphasizes the importance of habitat protection and wildlife management. He advocates for finding a balance between rural preservation and sustainable development, ensuring the longevity of natural resources.

“Giving land a voice and weaving conservation best practices into my day to day has become second nature,” said Burton, “Being conservation-minded has enhanced my love and appreciation for the outdoors – it’s our responsibility to sustain our natural resources and be stewards of our land and wildlife.”

Through his foundation, Burton actively engages in habitat restoration projects, leveraging programs like the Farm Bill to support his foundation projects as well as fellow landowners in enhancing and restoring wildlife habitats. His hands-on approach, from wetland restoration to prescribed burns, exemplifies his dedication to leaving a positive impact on the land.

Without good conservation practices, the activities we all enjoy outdoors are at risk. Without habitat protection and efforts to maintain and grow healthy wildlife populations, the hunting and fishing opportunities we hope to share with the next generation may not be there.”

Ward Burton

Burton stridently believes that hunters and anglers are the original conservationists, emphasizing the ethical responsibility of stewardship for future generations. He underscores the interconnectedness of habitat conservation, wildlife populations, and outdoor recreation, emphasizing the need for collective action in safeguarding natural resources.

Today, he finds the most joy in sharing these experiences with his children and grandchildren, passing down cherished traditions and values.

With this focus on education and outreach, Burton strives to inspire the next generation of conservationists, urging sportsmen and women to serve as role models and foster a love for the outdoors. He believes that by sharing the joys of nature and instilling a sense of responsibility, future generations will carry forward the legacy of conservation.

“You really need to let them experience the joys, the adventures, and the challenges. It’s through those experiences that they’ll develop a passion for nature and wildlife. I had the great benefit of my grandfather as a very, very strong role model in my life. My mom and dad gave me a lot of freedom as a child. Maybe too much! Once they got used to me not coming in right after dark, they knew I was okay and that I was out in the forest or in the woods. It’s from this that I developed my passion for conservation.”

Looking ahead, Burton remains committed to expanding his conservation efforts, advocating for policy changes, and fostering partnerships to protect natural habitats. His unwavering dedication to conservation serves as a beacon of hope for the future of wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

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

The TRCP is your no-B.S. resource for all things conservation. In our weekly Roosevelt Report, you’ll receive the latest news on emerging habitat threats, legislation and proposals on the move, public land access solutions we’re spearheading, and opportunities for hunters and anglers to take action. Sign up now.

April 11, 2024

House Passes Bipartisan EXPLORE Act to Improve Access to Outdoor Recreation

House passage is a major step towards improving public land access and fostering outdoor recreational opportunities nationwide.

On Tuesday, TRCP joined America’s hunters and anglers in celebrating the passage of the bipartisan EXPLORE Act in the House of Representatives by a unanimous vote.

The EXPLORE Act is a first of its kind recreation package that would improve access to the outdoors and modernize recreation infrastructure.  

Originally introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) and Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), The EXPLORE Act is a comprehensive legislative package that would expand access opportunities to a variety of public land users, streamline permitting processes for businesses focused on providing recreation opportunities, and modernize outdoor infrastructure.  

“The way Americans recreate is changing at break-neck speeds,” said Becky Humphries, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The EXPLORE Act will ensure that our agencies and the public have the tools they need to keep up with the dynamic recreation patterns of our nation. TRCP applauds the House’s passage of the EXPLORE Act and looks forward to the advancement of this important bipartisan legislation.” 

Along with including provisions of the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act, which would streamline recreational permitting for guides and outfitters, the EXPLORE Act would:  

  • Expand availability of public target shooting ranges on BLM and Forest Land.
  • Allow states, counties, and tribes to conduct recreation infrastructure enhancement or improvements on public lands through Good Neighbor Agreements. 
  • Improve federal coordination and provide assistance to non-federal partners in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species. 

The EXPLORE Act now heads to the Senate where the bill will be considered alongside the Senate’s recreation package: the bipartisan America’s Outdoor Recreation Act.

The TRCP is your no-B.S. resource for all things conservation. In our weekly Roosevelt Report, you’ll receive the latest news on emerging habitat threats, legislation and proposals on the move, public land access solutions we’re spearheading, and opportunities for hunters and anglers to take action. Sign up now.

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.



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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