Atlantic river herring populations (alewives and blueback herring) have fallen by more than 95% over the last two decades, prompting the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to list them as "species of concern." Since river herring spend most of their lives at sea, bycatch in industrial trawl fisheries for Atlantic herring, mackerel and other small pelagic fish is suspected to be a significant source of mortality, but adequate data collection, monitoring, and reporting programs to control bycatch have yet to be implemented. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) reports, "Preliminary analyses indicate that, in some years, the total bycatch of river herring species by the Atlantic herring fleet alone could be equal to the total landings from the entire in-river directed fishery on the East Coast."
In response to the river herring decline, the ASMFC released Draft Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Shad and River Herring for public comment. Hearings are being held throughout the Atlantic states until mid-December, and written comments will be accepted through January 1, 2009.