Alewife and blueback herring, collectively known as “river herring,” are a linchpin of the Atlantic ecosystem and key prey species for countless marine and freshwater animals. But today, where millions of these fish once swam, they now number in the thousands, or even mere hundreds. In August, because of the perilous status of this important species, the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to have alewife and blueback herring listed as a “threatened species” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This would mean that without substantial intervention, river herring are likely to become endangered and eventually extinct throughout all or significant portions of their ranges.
In response to the petition, NMFS agreed that a “threatened” listing may be warranted, and it will now take the next twelve months to conduct a scientific review that will determine the next course of action. If river herring are listed under the ESA, they will be better protected against bycatch in ocean fisheries, which studies estimate kills roughly 12 million fish annually, and they will also be better protected against water pollution, dams and other harms.
In order to ensure that NMFS undertakes a comprehensive and fully-independent scientific review and does not cut corners or cave to outside pressures, we need you to reach out to NMFS and ask that its review of the status of river herring be based on the best available science.