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River Herring Harvest Moratorium in Effect in Maryland

Annapolis, Md. (January 13, 2012) ─The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirms that there is now a statewide moratorium on the harvest of river herring ─ including blueback and alewife herring.

“This fishery closure was implemented on December 26, 2011, in response to a coast-wide concern regarding the depressed stock levels of blueback and alewife herring,” said DNR Fisheries Service Director Tom O’Connell. “This is evident by a 93 percent drop in commercial river herring landings along the Atlantic Coast since 1985.”

The Maryland commercial harvest of river herring has been falling since the early 1970s when the yearly average was about 700,000 pounds. Between 1990 and 1999 the yearly average was roughly 164,000 pounds. From 2005 to 2010 the average was just 35,200 pounds.

River herring contribute greatly to the dynamics of food chains in freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats, and at one time supported fisheries of significant socio-economic value. Maryland is not alone in taking action to restore river herring.

River herring and other fish species that travel between Atlantic Coast states from Maine to Florida are managed cooperatively by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Every state from Maine to Florida was required to implement a harvest moratorium by January 1, 2012, unless sustainability of their fishery was demonstrated through State-specific management plans.

“With few exceptions, it is now illegal to possess river herring in Maryland,” said Mike Luisi, DNR Fisheries Service Assistant Director for Estuarine and Marine Fisheries.

Bait shops with leftover river herring in storage that were harvested prior to December 26, 2011 may possess the fish until June 30, 2012 by notifying DNR and having their inventory approved by February 6. Dealers wishing to declare their river herring inventory should contact DNR river herring coordinator Harry Rickabaugh at 410-643-6801 ext. 2109 or Karen Capossela at 410-643-6801 ext. 2116.

Anyone in possession of river herring as bait will need to have a receipt indicating where the herring was purchased. This will allow bait shops to sell, and fishermen to possess, river herring for bait that was harvested from a State whose fishery remains open, as an ASMFC approved sustainable fishery. States with open river herring fisheries include New York, Maine, New Hampshire, South Carolina and North Carolina.

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   January 13, 2012

Contact: Josh Davidsburg
410-260-8002 office I 410-507-7526 cell

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages nearly one-half million acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at