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Bycatch Avoidance Programs

River herring avoidance in the Atlantic herring and mackerel fisheries

After over a decade of collaboration, the River Herring Bycatch Avoidance Program came to an end in March of 2021. The program, representing the work of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, the Commerical Fisheries Research Foundation, the commercial fishing industry, and contributions from several other organizations, fundamentally improved the understanding of river herring bycatch and how to reduce it in the Atlantic herring and Atlantic mackerel fisheries. It increased portside sampling of relevant vessels in Massachusetts and Rhode Island by over 100% at times. The data collected through portside sampling supported scientific publications, management decisions, and was the primary information source for near-real-time communications of river herring bycatch.

These communications positively influenced fishing habits and played a role in the approximate 60% decrease in total bycatch and 20% decrease in the bycatch rate prior to the establishment of river herring catch limits. Once river herring catch limits were established, the program helped the industry stay under these limits more often than what was expected by managers. Through the course of the project, 26 vessels contributed data. This included 8 fishing companies and their 13 mid-water trawl vessels, representing the majority of Atlantic herring and mackerel catch in the U.S., that were cornerstones of the program.

The program was started with funding from the National Fisheries Wildlife Foundation, strengthened with funding from The Nature Conservancy, and then sustained by the Atlantic Herring Research-Set Aside Program. Cuts to the Atlantic herring quota in 2021 made funding through the Research-Set Aside Program untenable and, along with the closure of nearshore areas, reduced the need for the program. Thank you to all who supported and contributed to this program. Please see below for more information and historical bycatch maps. 

Read an evaluation of project results. (PDF)

Read project reports.

Bycatch Maps

Bycatch classifications were changed in 2015 to reflect river herring catch limits. Since then high bycatch events reflect a rate at which river herring catch limits will be reached before mid-water trawl Atlantic herring or Atlantic mackerel catch limits. Take caution when comparing high bycatch events between years. 

For more information, contact:       

Brad Schondelmeier  978-282-0308 x123

David Bethoney  401-515-4662 


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