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Roger Fleming's blog

A blueback herring.

River herring spend most of their lives in the Atlantic Ocean. They are anadromous fish species, which means they return to spawn in coastal rivers in the spring. But these small fish are in big trouble. Based on analysis by the National Marine Fisheries Service, their populations have declined more than 98 percent from their historic level.

Atlantic trawler.

Scientists and fishermen agree that the industrial midwater trawl fleet is taking a toll on many species on the Atlantic Coast. The massive nets of these vessels kill millions of river herring and, increasingly, the juveniles of some commercially important groundfish such as haddock. Unfortunately, an important action to rein in this damage is facing a substantial delay.

Atlantic Trawler

The annual spring migration of river herring into East Coast estuaries and rivers historically supported a wealth of predator life, cultural events, and even thriving commercial fisheries.

But a deadly combination of overfishing at sea, dams and pollution in rivers has contributed to a 96 percent decline in river herring populations. Despite removal of dams and reduced pollution in rivers, the recovery has been stubbornly slow, leading scientists to say that the problems at sea must be addressed.

Pity the lowly herring, an essential species getting little love these days from the government agencies that are supposed to protect them.

Everything eats herring—from whales to striped bass to seabirds. Without abundant herring stocks, the Atlantic food web doesn’t work. That’s why herring protection brings together a diverse coalition of interests that includes recreational and commercial fishermen, conservation groups and whale-watching businesses.

A recent federal appeals court decision protects the viability of depleted groundfish species like cod and flounder in New England.

The region’s two biggest fishing ports, New Bedford and Gloucester, along with a commercial fishery association, had challenged a set of sustainable fishery rules established in 2010. Attorneys for the ports argued that the new rules were unfairly enacted and should be overturned.

A special thank you goes out to the thousands of Earthjustice supporters who took action over the last few months by writing to the fishery management councils. Your voices made a huge difference.

After a long struggle, we just concluded two great weeks in the campaign to protect forage fish, some of the most important fish in the sea.

I want to share with you some of the details about what happened.

About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.