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MOREHEAD CITY – The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission recently finalized a River Herring Fishery Management Plan that will continue a harvest moratorium until river herring stocks show improvement.

The plan calls for zero harvest of river herring statewide in coastal waters, except for 7,500 pounds per year set aside for research and to supply some local fish for cultural events.

The moratorium went into effect by proclamation for the 2006-2007 fishing season after the commission tentatively approved the plan last fall.

“It was not an easy management decision to make, but one that had to be done to give river herring any chance of recovery,” said Louis Daniel, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.

The division developed the plan at the direction of the commission and with input from an advisory panel. Public meetings on the plan were held up and down the North Carolina coast.

River herring fishing in northeastern North Carolina is a long-standing tradition dating back to colonial times. However, despite increasing regulations designed to help the fishery recover, commercial landings have continued to decline since the mid-1980s.

River herring stocks are classified as depleted, and scientists do not know all the reasons why. Even with a fishing moratorium, river herring stocks may not recover within 10 years, as required by law.

In addition to regulatory measures, the plan calls for intensive monitoring and research of river herring populations. The plan also calls for water quality improvements and the removal of dams and other man-made structures that block river herring migrations.

The N.C. General Assembly took steps towards answering these calls by funding two new positions and operating expenses to implement the plan. The legislature also appropriated $100,000 to the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuarine Program for river herring research.

This money, along with state and non-governmental partnerships, will begin the process of river herring recovery.
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