IMS Program

River herring avoidance in the Atlantic herring and mackerel fisheries


The incidental catch of river herring by vessels targeting Atlantic herring and mackerel has become a concern for their conservation. Though the direct effect of this bycatch on river herring populations is unknown, managers have created river herring catch limits. If river herring catch limits are reached, large areas of the Atlantic herring fishery or the entire mackerel fishery would be closed. This collaborative project between mid-water trawl fishermen, Rhode Island bottom trawl fishermen, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and SMAST seeks to reduce river herring and shad bycatch independent of management action; aiding in the effort to rebuild river herring and providing fishermen with a tool to avoid  area closures.

Sampling catch of herring boat

The project involves increasing portside sampling, a near real-time information system on the location bycatch events, and testing if oceanographic features can be used to indicate areas with a high probability of bycatch. Portside sampling through the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, which samples about 50% of all landings in Massachusetts, is the main information source for the project. However, several other institutions contribute to the project to increase the number of trips monitored. All observations from the Northeast Fisheries Observer Program are reported in near real-time, while the vessels are at-sea. NOAA Study Fleet and the Maine Department of Marine Resource provide additional samples when the vessels land. The project was started in 2010, with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife foundation. It is now sustained by The Nature Conservancy and the Atlantic herring Research Set Aside (RSA) program. 

Click here for an evaluation of project results. 

Click here for more information about the project methods.  

Recent Bycatch Maps

Fall 2018 Mid-water Trawl Last Update: 12/12 

Herring Research Set Aside (RSA) Information: Through the Atlantic herring RSA program, SMAST aplied for and recieved 2,136 mt of Atlantic herring quota in 2016, 2017 and 2018 to generate funds for the river herring bycatch avoidance and portside monitoring programs. The 2016 RSA quota was distributed to companies that agreed to be held to a higher standard while harvesting RSA quota and meet certain criteria of the river herring bycatch avoidance program outlined in a Responsible Fishing Agreement. Funds generated by the harvest of herring RSA quota are also used to monitor the landings of these vessels when they return to port.

Click here to receive text alerts about RSA fishing activity 

2018 RSA Landings and River herring bycatch

Area Quota Distributed RSA Trips Landed RSA Trips Monitored Atlantic Herring Landed River Herring Bycatch
1A 900 mt 2 0 216.7 -- 
1B 135 mt 0 0 0 0
2 870 mt 0 0 0 0
3 1,215 mt 0 0 0 0


MyMARACOOS (Bycatch and Oceanographic Conditions)

Squid Trawl Network River herring avoidance

Past Avoidance System Results

Bycatch classifcations were changed in 2015 to reflect river herring catch limits. HIGH bycatch events now relfect a rate at which river herring catch limits will be reached before Atlantic herring catch limits. This resulted in lowering the HIGH bycatch threshold for bottom trawl and mid-water trawl vessels. 

For more information, contact:       

Brad Schondelmeier  978-282-0308 x123

David Bethoney  508-910-6386 

Bill Hoffman   978-282-0308 x106 

SMAST Bycatch Avoidance Program

Capt. Chris Wright enters yellowtail bycatch information into Boatracs reporting macro onboard the F/V Huntress

SMAST is running the Bycatch Avoidance Program for yellowtail and windowpane flounder in fishing year 2017, including the Closed Area II access area on Georges Bank. 

The Bycatch Avoidance program uses near real-time communications with fishing vessels to determine the location of bycatch hotspots to assist scallopers in harvesting their target scallop allocation without triggering bycatch accountability measures. The program was started in 2010 with the collaboration of the scallop fleet. 

Deckload of scallops on the F/V Huntress‌Bycatch Update: Latest Bycatch Advisory

The 2017 SMAST Bycatch Avoidance Program began on March 23, 2017.  

All information to participate can be found in the links below:

For more information or to sign up to participate, contact:        

Brooke Wright:, 508-910-6372