Sailors for the Sea Publishes March Ocean Watch Essay - Sailors for the Sea

Sailors for the Sea Publishes March Ocean Watch Essay

Press Release

River Herring: Their Role in Coastal and Marine Ecosystems – Learn steps to stop the disappearance of river herring populations


Newport, Rhode Island- March 13, 2012 – Sailors for the Sea, the only ocean conservation nonprofit focused on the sailing and boating community, today publishes its March Ocean Watch Essay focused on the role Alewife and blueback herring, collectively known as river herring, play in coastal and marine ecosystems.  

Once found in nearly every coastal river in the Northeast, river herring are now targeted by federal fisheries managers for a potential listing under the Endangered Species Act. These important foragers or schooling fish that sit at the midpoint of the ocean food web consuming plankton before being eaten by other animals, also serve as food for predators such as ospreys, cod, striped bass, tuna and whales, and as bait for sport and lobster fishing, and commercial fishing.

River herring, which spend most of their lives in the ocean except to migrate to rivers to spawn each spring, are disappearing from the East Coast because of dams, habitat degradation, and in-river overfishing. The health of the ocean and survival of key species depends on the availability of small schooling fish, such as river herring, for bigger fish to eat.

Dan Pingaro, executive director and CEO, Sailors for the Sea, notes, “The depletion of any species has widespread impact across many species and ecosystems. In most cases, human actions have altered the sensitive balance that supports life and ecosystem sustainability. Changes in human behavior, if initiated early enough, can halt devastating environmental degradation and, possibly, even reverse the damage. Sailors for the Sea is dedicated to supporting all efforts related to ocean conservation and protection, including maintaining the healthy balance needed to support marine life within the ocean and coastal waters.”

Change Can Happen 
While state and federal governments and stakeholders have aggressively addressed threats to the river herring populations, in the past two decades unintentional catch (or bycatch) has emerged as a serious threat. Protecting river herring and implementing proper management practices can help to ensure that populations of alewife and blueback, and the ecosystems they support, will remain healthy for generations. 

This June, the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC), the organization that manages the region’s fishery resources, will have the opportunity to protect against the disappearance of river herring populations. Strong regional measures will also help. The Pew Environment Group urges the council to pass management provisions that would:

  • Limit the catch of river herring at sea
  • Require 100 percent monitoring of midwater trawl vessels
  • Prohibit dumping

Consumers can help by:

  • Writing to the council letting members know you support better oversight of industrial fishing and increased protection of the ocean and its resources
  • Staying in touch with efforts to protect forage fish at
  • Support Ocean Conservation by donating to Sailors for the Sea
  • Attend a public hearing held by The New England Fishery Management Council during March
  • Eat sustainable seafood

More about the Ocean Watch Essay Program 
The Ocean Watch Essay program, a free online resource accessible through the Sailors for the Sea website, provides a constant stream of updated articles on current ocean issues such as ocean acidification, plastics, nonpoint source pollution, and invasive species. Each essay is accompanied by information on how individuals can make a difference in relation to the issue, creating a linkage from knowledge to personal action. Whenever possible, the program also provides information about activities, events, and opportunities, such as lectures, classes, beach and ocean water clean ups, for people to take action to preserve, protect, and improve the health of the ocean and coastal waters.

About Sailors for the Sea 
Founded in 2004, Sailors for the Sea is a nonprofit organization that educates and empowers the boating community to protect and restore our oceans and local waters. For more information or to participate in any of the Sailors for the Sea programs, or to become a member and support the organization,