The MAFMC recently approved Amendment 14 and initiated Amendment 15 to the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan.
According to the MAFMC, the measures seek to improve catch monitoring and reduce bycatch of river herrings (blueback and alewife) and shads (American and hickory) in the Atlantic mackerel and longfin squid fisheries.
The recommendations, if approved by The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), will be implemented via Amendment 14 to the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Fishery Management Plan.
River herrings and shads are among a number of important forage species in the Northeast region. Although they are not managed as directed fisheries, river herrings and shads are caught as incidental catch (bycatch) by trawlers fishing for mackerel and squid.
Concerns about river herrings and shads bycatch have escalated in recent months after an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) stock assessment indicated that 92% of the 24 assessed river herring stocks were depleted. The Council initiated Amendment 14 in response to a request from the ASMFC.
Amendment 14 includes a catch cap for river herrings and shads in the mackerel fishery beginning in 2014 and increased vessel and dealer reporting requirements. The Council recommended that NMFS increase observer coverage in the mackerel fishery and require 100% coverage on mid-water trawlers.
Amendment 15 could include provisions for setting Annual Catch Limits, identifying Essential Fish Habitat, and establishing joint management with management partners such as the New England Fishery Management Council and/or the ASMFC.