[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 155 (Monday, August 12, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 48943-48994]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-19380]



[[Page 48943]]

Vol. 78

Monday,

No. 155

August 12, 2013

Part II





Department of Commerce





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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration





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Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Act 
Listing Determination for Alewife and Blueback Herring; Notice

Federal Register / Vol. 78 , No. 155 / Monday, August 12, 2013 / 
Notices

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

[Docket No. 111024651-3630-02]
RIN 0648-XA739


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species 
Act Listing Determination for Alewife and Blueback Herring

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Notice of a listing determination.

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SUMMARY: We, NMFS, have completed a comprehensive review of the status 
of river herring (alewife and blueback herring) in response to a 
petition submitted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) 
requesting that we list alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and blueback 
herring (Alosa aestivalis) as threatened under the Endangered Species 
Act (ESA) throughout all or a significant portion of their range or as 
specific distinct population segments (DPS) identified in the petition. 
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) completed a 
comprehensive stock assessment for river herring in May 2012 which 
covers over 50 river specific stocks throughout the range of the 
species in the United States. The ASMFC stock assessment contained much 
of the information necessary to make an ESA listing determination for 
both species; however, any deficiencies were addressed through focused 
workshops and working group meetings and review of additional sources 
of information. Based on the best scientific and commercial information 
available, we have determined that listing alewife as threatened or 
endangered under the ESA is not warranted at this time. Additionally, 
based on the best scientific and commercial information available, we 
have determined that listing blueback herring as threatened or 
endangered under the ESA is not warranted at this time.

DATES:  This finding is effective on August 12, 2013.

ADDRESSES: The listing determination, list of references used in the 
listing determination, and other related materials regarding this 
determination can be obtained via the Internet at: http://www.nero.noaa.gov/prot_res/CandidateSpeciesProgram/RiverHerringSOC.htm 
or by submitting a request to the Assistant Regional Administrator, 
Protected Resources Division, Northeast Region, NMFS, 55 Great Republic 
Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kim Damon-Randall, NMFS Northeast 
Regional Office, (978) 282-8485; or Marta Nammack, NMFS, Office of 
Protected Resources (301) 427-8469.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Background

    On August 5, 2011, we, the National Marine Fisheries Service 
(NMFS), received a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council 
(NRDC), requesting that we list alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) and 
blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis) under the ESA as threatened 
throughout all or a significant portion of their ranges. In the 
alternative, they requested that we designate DPSs of alewife and 
blueback herring as specified in the petition (Central New England, 
Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay, and Carolina for alewives, and 
Central New England, Long Island Sound, and Chesapeake Bay for blueback 
herring). The petition contained information on the two species, 
including the taxonomy, historical and current distribution, physical 
and biological characteristics of their habitat and ecosystem 
relationships, population status and trends, and factors contributing 
to the species' decline. The petition also included information 
regarding potential DPSs of alewife and blueback herring as described 
above. The following five factors identified in section 4(a)(1) of the 
ESA were addressed in the petition: (1) Present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of habitat or range; (2) 
over-utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (3) disease or predation; (4) inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; and (5) other natural or man-made 
factors affecting the species' continued existence.
    We reviewed the petition and determined that, based on the 
information in the petition and in our files at the time we received 
the petition, the petitioned action may be warranted. Therefore, we 
published a positive 90-day finding on November 2, 2011, and as a 
result, we were required to review the status of the species (e.g., 
anadromous alewife and blueback herring) to determine if listing under 
the ESA is warranted. We formed an internal status review team (SRT) 
comprised of nine NMFS staff members (Northeast Regional Office (NERO) 
Protected Resources Division and Northeast Fisheries Science Center 
staff) to compile the best commercial and scientific data available for 
alewife and blueback herring throughout their ranges.
    In May 2012, the ASMFC completed a river herring stock assessment, 
which covers over 50 river-specific stocks throughout the ranges of the 
species in the United States (ASMFC, 2012; hereafter referred to in 
this determination as ``the stock assessment''). In order to avoid 
duplicating this extensive effort, we worked cooperatively with ASMFC 
to use this information in the review of the status of these two 
species and identify information not in the stock assessment that was 
needed for our listing determination. We identified the missing 
required elements and held workshops/working group meetings focused on 
addressing information on stock structure, extinction risk analysis, 
and climate change.
    Reports from each workshop/working group meeting were compiled and 
independently peer reviewed (the stock structure and extinction risk 
reports were peer reviewed by reviewers selected by the Center for 
Independent Experts, and the climate change report was peer reviewed by 
4 experts identified during the workshops). These reports did not 
contain any listing advice or reach any ESA listing conclusions--such 
synthesis and analysis for river herring is solely within the agency's 
purview. We used this information to determine which extinction risk 
method and stock structure analysis would best inform the listing 
determination, as well as understand how climate change may impact 
river herring, and ultimately, we are using these reports along with 
the stock assessment and all other best available information in this 
listing determination.
    Alewife and blueback herring are collectively referred to as 
``river herring.'' Due to difficulties in distinguishing between the 
species, they are often harvested together in commercial and 
recreational fisheries, and managed together by the ASMFC. Throughout 
this finding, where there are similarities, they will be collectively 
referred to as river herring, and where there are distinctions, they 
will be identified by species.

Range

    River herring can be found along the Atlantic coast of North 
America, from the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada to the 
southeastern United States (Mullen et al., 1986; Schultz et al., 2009). 
The coastal ranges of the two

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species overlap. Blueback herring range from Nova Scotia south to the 
St. John's River, Florida; and alewife range from Labrador and 
Newfoundland south to South Carolina, though their occurrence in the 
extreme southern range is less common (Collette and Klein-MacPhee, 
2002; ASMFC, 2009a; Kocik et al., 2009).
    In Canada, river herring (i.e., gaspereau) are most abundant in the 
Miramichi, Margaree, LaHave, Tusket, Shubenacadie and Saint John Rivers 
(Gaspereau Management Plan, 2001). They are proportionally less 
abundant in smaller coastal rivers and streams (Gaspereau Management 
Plan, 2001). Generally, blueback herring in Canada occur in fewer 
rivers than alewives and are less abundant in rivers where both species 
coexist (DFO 2001).

Habitat and Migration

    River herring are anadromous, meaning that they mature in the 
marine environment and then migrate up coastal rivers to estuarine and 
freshwater rivers, ponds, and lake habitats to spawn (Collette and 
Klein-MacPhee, 2002; ASMFC, 2009a; Kocik et al., 2009). In general, 
adult river herring are most often found at depths less than 328 feet 
(ft) (100 meters (m)) in waters along the continental shelf (Neves, 
1981; ASMFC, 2009a; Schultz et al., 2009). They are highly migratory, 
pelagic, schooling species, with seasonal spawning migrations that are 
cued by water temperature (Collette and Klein-MacPhee, 2002; Schultz et 
al., 2009). Depending upon temperature, blueback herring typically 
spawn from late March through mid-May. However, they spawn in the 
southern parts of their range as early as December or January, and as 
late as August in the northern portion of their range (ASMFC, 2009a). 
Alewives have been documented spawning as early as February in the 
southern portion of their range, and as late as August in the northern 
portion of the range (ASMFC, 2009a). The river herring migration in 
Canada extends from late April through early July, with the peak 
occurring in late May and early June. Blueback herring generally make 
their spawning runs about 2 weeks later than alewives do (DFO, 2001). 
River herring conform to a metapopulation paradigm (e.g., a group of 
spatially separated populations of the same species which interact at 
some level) with adults frequently returning to their natal rivers for 
spawning but with some limited straying occurring between rivers 
(Jones, 2006; ASMFC, 2009a).
    Throughout their life cycle, river herring use many different 
habitats, including the ocean, estuaries, rivers, and freshwater lakes 
and ponds. The substrate preferred for spawning varies greatly and can 
include gravel, detritus, and submerged aquatic vegetation. Blueback 
herring prefer swifter moving waters than alewives do (ASMFC, 2009a). 
Nursery areas include freshwater and semi-brackish waters. Little is 
known about their habitat preference in the marine environment 
(Meadows, 2008; ASMFC, 2009a).

Landlocked Populations

    Landlocked populations of alewives and blueback herring also exist. 
Landlocked alewife populations occur in many freshwater lakes and ponds 
from Canada to North Carolina as well as the Great Lakes (Rothschild, 
1966; Boaze & Lackey, 1974). Many landlocked populations occur as a 
result of stocking to provide a forage base for game fish species 
(Palkovacs et al., 2007).
    Landlocked blueback herring occur mostly in the southeastern United 
States and the Hudson River drainage. The occurrence of landlocked 
blueback herring is primarily believed to be the result of accidental 
stockings in reservoirs (Prince and Barwick, 1981), unsanctioned 
stocking by recreational anglers to provide forage for game fish, and 
also through the construction of locks, dams and canal systems that 
have subsequently allowed for blueback herring occupation of several 
lakes and ponds along the Hudson River drainage up to, and including 
Lake Ontario (Limburg et al., 2001).
    Recent efforts to assess the evolutionary origins of landlocked 
alewives indicate that they rapidly diverged from their anadromous 
cousins between 300 and 5,000 years ago, and now represent a discrete 
life history variant of the species, Alosa pseudoharengus (Palkovacs et 
al., 2007). Though given their relatively recent divergence from 
anadromous populations, one plausible explanation for the existence of 
landlocked populations may be the construction of dams by either native 
Americans or early colonial settlers that precluded the downstream 
migration of juvenile herring (Palkovacs et al., 2007). Since their 
divergence, landlocked alewives have evolved to a point they now 
possess significantly different mouthparts than their anadromous 
cousins, including narrower gapes and smaller gill raker spacings to 
take advantage of year round availability of smaller prey in freshwater 
lakes and ponds (Palkovacs et al., 2007). Furthermore, the landlocked 
alewife, compared to its anadromous cousin, matures earlier, has a 
smaller adult body size, and reduced fecundity (Palkovacs et al., 
2007). At this time, there is no substantive information that would 
suggest that landlocked populations can or would revert back to an 
anadromous life history if they had the opportunity to do so (Gephard, 
CT DEEP, Pers. comm. 2012; Jordaan, UMASS Amherst, Pers. comm. 2012).
    The discrete life history and morphological differences between the 
two life history variants (anadromous and landlocked) provide 
substantial evidence that upon becoming landlocked, landlocked 
populations become largely independent and separate from anadromous 
populations and occupy largely separate ecological niches (Palkovacs 
and Post, 2008). There is the possibility that landlocked alewife and 
blueback herring may have the opportunity to mix with anadromous river 
herring during high discharge years and through dam removals which 
could provide passage over dams and access to historic spawning 
habitats restored for anadromous populations, where it did not 
previously exist. The implications of this are not known at this time.
    In summary, genetics indicate that anadromous alewife populations 
are discrete from landlocked populations, and that this divergence can 
be estimated to have taken place from 300 to 5,000 years ago. Some 
landlocked populations of blueback herring do occur in the Mid-Atlantic 
and southeastern United States. Given the similarity in life histories 
between anadromous alewife and blueback herring, we assume that 
landlocked populations of blueback herring would exhibit a similar 
divergence from anadromous blueback herring, as has been documented 
with alewives.
    A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (USFWS) and NMFS (collectively, the Services) 
regarding jurisdictional responsibilities and listing procedures under 
the ESA was signed August 28, 1974. This MOU states that NMFS shall 
have jurisdiction over species ``which either (1) reside the major 
portion of their lifetimes in marine waters; or (2) are species which 
spend part of their lifetimes in estuarine waters, if the major portion 
of the remaining time (the time which is not spent in estuarine waters) 
is spent in marine waters.''
    Given that landlocked populations of river herring remain in 
freshwater throughout their life history and are genetically divergent 
from the anadromous species, pursuant to the aforementioned MOU, we did 
not

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include the landlocked populations of alewife and blueback herring in 
our review of the status of the species and do not consider landlocked 
populations in this listing determination in response to the petition 
to list these anadromous species.

Listing Species Under the Endangered Species Act

    We are responsible for determining whether alewife and blueback 
herring are threatened or endangered under the ESA (16 U.S.C. 1531 et 
seq.). Accordingly, based on the statutory, regulatory, and policy 
provisions described below, the steps we followed in making our listing 
determination for alewife and blueback herring were to: (1) Determine 
how alewife and blueback herring meet the definition of ``species''; 
(2) determine the status of the species and the factors affecting them; 
and (3) identify and assess efforts being made to protect the species 
and determine if these efforts are adequate to mitigate existing 
threats.
    To be considered for listing under the ESA, a group of organisms 
must constitute a ``species.'' Section 3 of the ESA defines a 
``species'' as ``any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any 
distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or 
wildlife which interbreeds when mature.'' Section 3 of the ESA further 
defines an endangered species as ``any species which is in danger of 
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range'' and a 
threatened species as one ``which is likely to become an endangered 
species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant 
portion of its range.'' Thus, we interpret an ``endangered species'' to 
be one that is presently in danger of extinction. A ``threatened 
species,'' on the other hand, is not presently in danger of extinction, 
but is likely to become so in the foreseeable future (that is, at a 
later time). In other words, the primary statutory difference between a 
threatened and endangered species is the timing of when a species may 
be in danger of extinction, either presently (endangered) or in the 
foreseeable future (threatened).
    On February 7, 1996, the Services adopted a policy to clarify our 
interpretation of the phrase ``distinct population segment of any 
species of vertebrate fish or wildlife'' (61 FR 4722). The joint DPS 
policy describes two criteria that must be considered when identifying 
DPSs: (1) The discreteness of the population segment in relation to the 
remainder of the species (or subspecies) to which it belongs; and (2) 
the significance of the population segment to the remainder of the 
species (or subspecies) to which it belongs. As further stated in the 
joint policy, if a population segment is discrete and significant 
(i.e., it meets the DPS policy criteria), its evaluation for endangered 
or threatened status will be based on the ESA's definitions of those 
terms and a review of the five factors enumerated in section 4(a)(1) of 
the ESA.
    As provided in section 4(a) of the ESA, the statute requires us to 
determine whether any species is endangered or threatened because of 
any of the following five factors: (1) The present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (2) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (3) disease or predation; (4) the inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (5) other natural or manmade factors 
affecting its continued existence (section 4(a)(1)(A)(E)). Section 
4(b)(1)(A) of the ESA further requires that listing determinations be 
based solely on the best scientific and commercial data available after 
taking into account efforts being made to protect the species.

Distribution and Abundance

United States

    The stock assessment (described above) was prepared and compiled by 
the River Herring Stock Assessment Subcommittee, hereafter referred to 
as the `subcommittee,' of the ASMFC Shad and River Herring Technical 
Committee. Data and reports used for this assessment were obtained from 
Federal and state resource agencies, power generating companies, and 
universities.
    The subcommittee conducted its assessment on the coastal stocks of 
alewife and blueback herring by individual rivers as well as coast-wide 
depending on available data. The subcommittee concluded that river 
herring should ideally be assessed and managed by individual river 
system, but that the marine portion of their life history likely 
influences survival through mixing in the marine portion of their 
range. However, coast-wide assessments are complicated by the complex 
life history of these species as well, given that factors influencing 
population dynamics for the freshwater portion of their life history 
can not readily be separated from marine factors. In addition, it was 
noted that data quality and availability varies by river and is mostly 
dependent upon the monitoring efforts that each state dedicates to 
these species, which further complicated the assessment.
    The subcommittee also noted that most state landings records listed 
alewife and blueback herring together as `river herring' rather than 
identifying by species. These landings averaged 30.5 million pounds 
(lbs) (13,847 metric tons (mt)) per year from 1889 to 1938, and severe 
declines were noted coast-wide starting in the 1970s. Beginning in 
2005, states began enacting moratoria on river herring fisheries, and 
as of January 2012, all directed harvest of river herring in state 
waters is prohibited unless states have submitted and obtained approved 
sustainable fisheries management plans (FMP) under ASMFC's Amendment 2 
to the Shad and River Herring FMP.
    The subcommittee summarized its findings for trends in commercial 
catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE); run counts; young-of-the-year (YOY) seine 
surveys; juvenile-adult fisheries independent seine, gillnet and 
electrofishing surveys; juvenile-adult trawl surveys; mean length; 
maximum age; mean length-at-age; repeat spawner frequency; total 
mortality (Z) estimates; and exploitation rates. Because the stock 
assessment contains the most recent and comprehensive description of 
this information and the subcommittee's conclusions, the following 
sections were taken from the stock assessment (ASMFC, 2012).

Commercial CPUE

    Since the mid-1990s, CPUE indices for alewives showed declining 
trends in the Potomac River and James River (VA), no trend in the 
Rappahannock River (VA), and increasing trends in the York River (VA) 
and Chowan River (NC). CPUE indices available for blueback herring 
showed a declining trend in the Chowan River and no trend in the Santee 
River (SC). Combined species CPUE indices showed declining trends in 
Delaware Bay and the Nanticoke River, but CPUE has recently increased 
in the Hudson River (ASMFC, 2012).

Run Counts

    Major declines in run sizes occurred in many rivers from 2001 to 
2005. These declines were followed by increasing trends (2006 to 2010) 
in the Androscoggin River (ME), Damaraiscotta River (ME), Nemasket 
River (MA), Gilbert-Stuart River (RI), and Nonquit River (RI) for 
alewife and in the Sebasticook River (ME), Cocheco River (NH), Lamprey 
River (NH), and Winnicut River (NH) for both species combined. No 
trends in run sizes were evident following the recent major declines in 
the Union River (ME), Mattapoisett River (MA), and

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Monument River (MA) for alewife and in the Exeter River (NH) for both 
species combined. Run sizes have declined or are still declining 
following recent and historical major declines in the Oyster River (NH) 
and Taylor River (NH) for both species, in the Parker River (MA) for 
alewife, and in the Monument River (MA) and Connecticut River for 
blueback herring (ASMFC, 2012).

Young-of-the-Year Seine Surveys

    The young-of-the-year (YOY) seine surveys were quite variable and 
showed differing patterns of trends among rivers. Maine rivers showed 
similar trends in alewife and blueback herring YOY indices after 1991, 
with peaks occurring in 1995 and 2004. YOY indices from North Carolina 
and Connecticut showed declines from the 1980s to the present. New 
York's Hudson River showed peaks in YOY indices in 1999, 2001, 2005, 
and 2007. New Jersey and Maryland YOY indices showed peaks in 1994, 
1996, and 2001. Virginia YOY surveys showed peaks in 1993, 1996, 2001, 
and 2003 (ASMFC, 2012).

Juvenile-Adult Fisheries-Independent Seine, Gillnet and Electrofishing 
Surveys

    The juvenile-adult indices from fisheries-independent seine, 
gillnet and electrofishing surveys showed a variety of trends in the 
available datasets for the Rappahanock River (1991-2010), James River 
(2000-2010), St. John's River, FL (2001-2010), and Narragansett Bay 
(1988-2010). The gillnet indices from the Rappahannock River (alewife 
and blueback herring) showed a low and stable or decreasing trend after 
a major decline after 1995 and has remained low since 2000 (except for 
a rise in alewife CPUE during 2008). The gillnet and electrofishing 
indices in the James River (alewife and blueback herring) showed a 
stable or increasing trend. Blueback herring peak catch rates occurred 
in 2004, and alewife peak catch rates occurred in 2005. The blueback 
herring index from electrofishing in the St. John's River, FL, showed 
no trend after a major decline from 2001-2002. The seine indices in 
Narragansett Bay, RI (combined species) and coastal ponds (combined 
species) showed no trends over the time series. The CPUE for 
Narragansett Bay fluctuated without trend from 1988-1997, increased 
through 2000, declined and then remained stable from 2001-2004. The 
pond survey CPUE increased during 1993-1996, declined through 1998, 
increased in 1999, declined through 2002, peaked in 2003 and then 
declined and fluctuated without trend thereafter. The electrofishing 
indices showed opposing trends and then declining trends in the 
Rappahannock River (alewife and blueback herring) with catch rates of 
blueback herring peaking during 2001-2003, and catch rates of alewives 
lowest during the same time period (ASMFC, 2012).

Juvenile and Adult Trawl Surveys

    Trends in trawl survey indices varied greatly with some surveys 
showing an increase in recent years, some showing a decrease, and some 
remaining stable. Trawl survey data were available from 1966-2010 (for 
a complete description of data see ASMFC (2012)). Trawl surveys in 
northern areas tended to show either an increasing or stable trend in 
alewife indices, whereas trawl surveys in southern areas tended to show 
stable or decreasing trends. Patterns in trends across surveys were 
less evident for blueback herring. The NMFS surveys showed a consistent 
increasing trend coast-wide and in the northern regions for alewife and 
the combined river herring species group (ASMFC, 2012).

Mean Length

    Mean sizes for male and female alewife declined in 4 of 10 rivers, 
and mean sizes for female and male blueback herring declined in 5 of 8 
rivers. Data were available from 1960-2010 (for a complete description 
of data see ASMFC (2012)). The common trait among most rivers in which 
significant declines in mean sizes were detected is that historical 
length data were available for years prior to 1990. Mean lengths 
started to decline in the mid to late 1980s; therefore, it is likely 
that declines in other rivers were not detected because of the 
shortness of their time series. Mean lengths for combined sexes in 
trawl surveys were quite variable through time for both alewives and 
blueback herring. Despite this variability, alewife mean length tended 
to be lowest in more recent surveys. This pattern was less apparent for 
blueback herring. Trend analysis of mean lengths indicated significant 
declines in mean lengths over time for alewives coast-wide and in the 
northern region in both seasons, and for blueback coast-wide and in the 
northern region in fall (ASMFC, 2012).

Maximum Age

    Except for Maine and New Hampshire, maximum age of male and female 
alewife and blueback herring during 2005-2007 was 1 or 2 years lower 
than historical observations (ASMFC, 2012).

Mean Length-at-Age

    Declines in mean length of at least one age were observed in most 
rivers examined. The lack of significance in some systems is likely due 
to the absence of data prior to 1990 when the decline in sizes began, 
similar to the pattern observed for mean length. Declines in mean 
lengths-at-age for most ages were observed in the north (NH) and the 
south (NC). There is little indication of a general pattern of size 
changes along the Atlantic coast (ASMFC, 2012).

Repeat Spawner Frequency

    Examination of percentage of repeat spawners in available data 
revealed significant, declining trends in the Gilbert-Stuart River 
(RI--combined species), Nonquit River (RI--combined species), and the 
Nanticoke River (blueback herring). There were no trends in the 
remaining rivers for which data are available, although scant data 
suggest that current percentages of repeat spawners are lower than 
historical percentages in the Monument River (MA) and the Hudson River 
(NY) (ASMFC, 2012).

Total Mortality (Z) Estimates

    With the exception of male blueback herring from the Nanticoke 
River, which showed a slight increase over time, there were no trends 
in the Z estimates produced using age data (ASMFC, 2012).

Exploitation Rates

    Exploitation of river herring appears to be declining or remaining 
stable. In-river exploitation estimates have fluctuated, but are lower 
in recent years. A coast-wide index of relative exploitation showed a 
decline following a peak in the 1980s, and the index indicates that 
exploitation has remained fairly stable over the past decade. The 
majority of depletion-based stock reduction analysis (DB-SRA) model 
runs showed declining exploitation rates coast-wide. Exploitation rates 
estimated from the statistical catch-at-age model for blueback herring 
in the Chowan River also showed a slight declining trend from 1999 to 
2007, at which time a moratorium was instituted. There appears to be a 
consensus among various assessment methodologies that exploitation has 
decreased in recent times. The decline in exploitation over the past 
decade is not surprising because river herring populations are at low 
levels and more restrictive regulations or moratoria have been enacted 
by states (ASMFC, 2012).

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Summary of Stock Assessment Conclusions

    Of the in-river stocks of alewife and blueback herring for which 
data were available and were considered in the stock assessment, 22 
were depleted, 1 was increasing, and the status of 28 stocks could not 
be determined because the time-series of available data was too short. 
In most recent years, 2 in-river stocks were increasing, 4 were 
decreasing, and 9 were stable, with 38 rivers not having enough data to 
assess recent trends. The coast-wide meta-complex of river herring 
stocks in the United States is depleted to near historical lows. A 
depleted status indicates that there was evidence for declines in 
abundance due to a number of factors, but the relative importance of 
these factors in reducing river herring stocks could not be determined. 
Commercial landings of river herring peaked in the late 1960s, declined 
rapidly through the 1970s and 1980s and have remained at levels less 
than 3 percent of the peak over the past decade. Estimates of run sizes 
varied among rivers, but in general, declining trends in run size were 
evident in many rivers over the last decade. Fisheries-independent 
surveys did not show consistent trends and were quite variable both 
within and among surveys. Those surveys that showed declines tended to 
be from areas south of Long Island. A problem with the majority of 
fisheries-independent surveys was that the length of their time series 
did not overlap the period of peak commercial landings that occurred 
prior to 1970. There appears to be a consensus among various assessment 
methodologies that exploitation has decreased in recent times. The 
decline in exploitation over the past decade is not surprising because 
river herring populations are at low levels and more restrictive 
regulations or moratoria have been enacted by states (ASMFC, 2012).

Canada

    The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) monitors and manages 
river herring runs in Canada. River herring runs in the Miramichi River 
in New Brunswick and the Maragree River in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia 
were monitored intensively from 1983 to 2000 (DFO, 2001). More recently 
(1997 to 2006) the Gaspereau River alewife run and harvest has been 
intensively monitored and managed partially in response to a 2002 
fisheries management plan that had a goal of increasing spawning 
escapement to 400,000 adults (DFO, 2007). Elsewhere, river herring runs 
have been monitored less intensively, though harvest rates are 
monitored throughout Atlantic Canada through license sales, reporting 
requirements, and a logbook system that was enacted in 1992 (DFO, 
2001).
    At the time DFO conducted their last stock assessment in 2001, they 
identified river herring harvest levels as being low (relative to 
historical levels) and stable, to low and decreasing across most rivers 
where data were available (DFO, 2001). With respect to the commercial 
harvest of river herring, reported landings of river herring peaked in 
1980 at slightly less than 25.5 million lbs (11,600 mt) and declined to 
less than 11 million lbs (5,000 mt) in 1996. Landings data reported 
through DFO indicate that river herring harvests have continued to 
decline through 2010.

Consideration as a Species Under the ESA

Distinct Population Segment Background

    According to Section 3 of the ESA, the term ``species'' includes 
``any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct 
population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife that 
interbreeds when mature.'' Congress included the term ``distinct 
population segment'' in the 1978 amendments to the ESA. On February 7, 
1996, the Services adopted a policy to clarify their interpretation of 
the phrase ``distinct population segment'' for the purpose of listing, 
delisting, and reclassifying species (61 FR 4721). The policy described 
two criteria a population segment must meet in order to be considered a 
DPS (61 FR 4721): (1) It must be discrete in relation to the remainder 
of the species to which it belongs; and (2) it must be significant to 
the species to which it belongs.
    Determining if a population is discrete requires either one of the 
following conditions: (1) It is markedly separated from other 
populations of the same taxon as a consequence of physical, 
physiological, ecological, or behavioral factors. Quantitative measures 
of genetic or morphological discontinuity may provide evidence of this 
separation; or (2) it is delimited by international governmental 
boundaries within which differences in control of exploitation, 
management of habitat, conservation status, or regulatory mechanisms 
exist that are significant in light of section 4(a)(1)(D) of the ESA.
    If a population is deemed discrete, then the population segment is 
evaluated in terms of significance. Factors to consider in determining 
whether a discrete population segment is significant to the species to 
which it belongs include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) 
Persistence of the discrete population segment in an ecological setting 
unusual or unique for the taxon; (2) evidence that loss of the discrete 
population segment would result in a significant gap in the range of 
the taxon; (3) evidence that the discrete population segment represents 
the only surviving natural occurrence of a taxon that may be more 
abundant elsewhere as an introduced population outside its historic 
range; or (4) evidence that the discrete population segment differs 
markedly from other populations of the species in its genetic 
characteristics.
    If a population segment is deemed discrete and significant, then it 
qualifies as a DPS.

Information Related to Discreteness

    To obtain expert opinion about anadromous alewife and blueback 
herring stock structure, we convened a working group in Gloucester, MA, 
on June 20-21, 2012. This working group meeting brought together river 
herring experts from state and Federal fisheries management agencies 
and academic institutions. Participants presented information to inform 
the presence or absence of stock structure such as genetics, life 
history, and morphometrics. A public workshop was held to present the 
expert working group's findings on June 22, 2012, and during this 
workshop, additional information on stock structure was sought from the 
public. Subsequently, a summary report was developed (NMFS, 2012a), and 
a peer review of the document was completed by three independent 
reviewers. The summary report and peer review reports are available on 
the NMFS Web site (see the ADDRESSES section above).
    Steve Gephard of the Connecticut Department of Energy and 
Environmental Protection (CT DEP) presented a preliminary U.S. coast-
wide genetic analysis of alewife and blueback herring data (Palkovacs 
et al., 2012, unpublished report). Palkovacs et al., (2012, unpublished 
report) used 15 novel microsatellite markers on samples collected from 
Maine to Florida. For alewife, 778 samples were collected from spawning 
runs in 15 different rivers, and 1,201 blueback herring samples were 
collected from 20 rivers.
    Bayesian analyses identified five genetically distinguishable 
stocks for alewife with similar results using both STRUCTURE and 
Bayesian Analysis of Population Structure (BAPS) software models. The 
alewife stock complexes identified were: (1) Northern New England; (2) 
Southern New England; (3)

[[Page 48949]]

Connecticut River; (4) Mid-Atlantic; and (5) North Carolina. For 
blueback herring, no optimum solution was reached using STRUCTURE, 
while BAPS suggested four genetically identifiable stock complexes. The 
stock complexes identified for blueback herring were: (1) Northern New 
England; (2) Southern New England; (3) Mid Atlantic; (4) and Southern. 
However, it should be noted that these Bayesian inferences of 
population structure provide a minimum number of genetically 
distinguishable groups. In the future, in order to better define 
potential stock complexes, further tests examining structure within 
designated stocks should be conducted using hierarchical clustering 
analysis and genetic tests.
    The study also examined the effects of geography and found a strong 
effect of latitude on genetic divergence, suggesting a stepping stone 
model of population structure, and a strong pattern of isolation by 
distance, where gene flow is most likely among neighboring spawning 
populations. The preliminary results from the study found significant 
differentiation among spawning rivers for both alewife and blueback 
herring. Based on the results of their study, the authors' preliminary 
management recommendations suggest that river drainage is the 
appropriate level of management for both of the species. This inference 
was also supported by genetic tests which were conducted later. These 
tests suggest that there is substantial population structure at the 
drainage scale.
    The authors noted a number of caveats for their study including: 
(1) Collection of specimens on their upstream spawning run may pool 
samples from what are truly distinct spawning populations within the 
major river drainages sampled, thereby, underestimating genetic 
structure within rivers (Hasselman, 2010); (2) a more detailed analysis 
of population structure within the major stocks identified (i.e., using 
hierarchical Bayesian clustering methods and genic test) would be 
useful for identifying any substructure within these major stocks; (3) 
neutral genetic markers used in this study represent the effects of 
gene flow and historical population isolation, but not the effects of 
adaptive processes, which are important to consider in the context of 
stock identification; (4) the analysis is preliminary, and there are a 
number of issues that need to be further investigated, including the 
effect of deviations in the Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium model 
encountered in four alewife loci and the failure of STRUCTURE to 
perform well on the blueback herring dataset; and (5) hybridization may 
be occurring between alewife and blueback herring and may influence the 
results of the species-specific analyses.
    Following the Stock Structure Workshop, additional analyses were 
run on the alewife dataset to examine the uniqueness of the 
(tentatively) designated Connecticut River alewife stock complex. 
Hybrids and misidentified samples were found and subsequently removed 
for this analysis, and the results were refined. By removing these 
samples from the Connecticut River alewife dataset, Palkovacs et al. 
(2012, unpublished report) found that, for alewife, the Connecticut and 
Hudson Rivers belong to the Southern New England stock. The analyses 
were further refined and Palkovacs et al. (2012, unpublished report) 
provided an updated map of the alewife genetic stock complexes, 
combining the tentative North Carolina stock with the Mid-Atlantic 
stock. This information and analysis is complete and is currently being 
prepared for publication. Thus, the refined genetic stock complexes for 
alewife in the coastal United States include Northern New England, 
Southern New England, and the Mid-Atlantic. For blueback herring, the 
identified genetic stocks include Northern New England, Southern New 
England, Mid-Atlantic and Southern (Palcovacs et al., 2012, unpublished 
report).
    Bentzen et al. (2012) implemented a two-part genetic analysis of 
river herring to evaluate the genetic diversity of alewives in Maine 
and Maritime Canada, and to assess the regional effects of stocking on 
alewives and blueback herring in Maine. The genetic analysis of 
alewives and blueback herring along mid-coast Maine revealed 
significant genetic differentiation among populations. Despite 
significant differentiation, the patterns of correlation did not 
closely correspond with geography or drainage affiliation. The genetic 
analysis of alewives from rivers in Maine and Atlantic Canada detected 
isolation by distance, suggesting that homing behavior indicative of 
alewives' metapopulation conformance does produce genetically 
distinguishable populations. Further testing also suggested that there 
may be interbreeding between alewives and blueback herring (e.g., 
hybrids), especially at sample sites with impassible dams.
    The unusual genetic groupings of river herring in Maine are likely 
a result of Maine's complex stocking history, as alewife populations in 
Maine have been subject to considerable within and out of basin 
stocking for the purpose of enhancement, recolonization of extirpated 
populations, and stock introduction. Alewife stocking in Maine dates 
back at least to 1803 when alewives were reportedly moved from the 
Pemaquid and St. George Rivers to create a run of alewives in the 
Damariscotta River (Atkins and Goode, 1887). These efforts were largely 
responsive to considerable declines in alewife populations following 
the construction of dams, over exploitation and pollution. Although 
there has been considerable alewife stocking and relocation throughout 
Maine, there are very few records documenting these efforts. In 
contrast, considerably less stocking of alewives has occurred in 
Maritime Canada. These genetic analyses suggest that river herring from 
Canadian waters are genetically distinct from Maine river herring.
    All of the expert opinions we received during the Stock Structure 
Workshop suggested evidence of regional stock structure exists for both 
alewife and blueback herring as shown by the recent genetics data 
(Palkovacs et al., 2012, unpublished report; Bentzen et al., 
unpublished data). However, the suggested boundaries of the regional 
stock complexes differed from expert to expert. Migration and mixing 
patterns of alewives and blueback herring in the ocean have not been 
determined, though regional stock mixing is suspected. Therefore, the 
experts suggested that the ocean phase of alewives and blueback herring 
should be considered a mixed stock until further tagging and genetic 
data become available. There is evidence to support regional 
differences in migration patterns, but not at a level of river-specific 
stocks.
    In the mid-1980s, Rulifson et al. (1987) tagged and released 
approximately 19,000 river herring in the upper Bay of Fundy, Nova 
Scotia with an overall recapture rate of 0.39 percent. Alewife tag 
returns were from freshwater locations in Nova Scotia, and marine 
locations in Nova Scotia and Massachusetts. Blueback herring tag 
returns were from freshwater locations in Maryland and North Carolina 
and marine locations in Nova Scotia. Rulifson et al. (1987) suspected 
from recapture data that alewives and blueback herring tagged in the 
Bay of Fundy were of different origins, hypothesizing that alewives 
were likely regional fish from as far away as New England, while the 
blueback herring recaptures were likely not regional fish, but those of 
U.S. origin from the mid-Atlantic region. However, the low tag return 
numbers (n = 2) made it difficult to generalize about the natal rivers 
of

[[Page 48950]]

blueback herring caught in the Bay of Fundy. The results of this 
tagging study show that river herring present in Canadian waters may 
originate from U.S. waters and vice versa.
    Metapopulations of river herring are believed to exist, with adults 
frequently returning to their natal rivers for spawning and some 
straying occurring between rivers--straying rates have been estimated 
up to 20 percent (Jones, 2006; ASMFC, 2009a; Gahagan et al., 2012). 
Given the available information on genetic differentiation coast-wide 
for alewife and blueback herring, it appears that stock complexes exist 
for both species.
    River herring originating from Canadian rivers are delimited by 
international governmental boundaries. Differences in control of 
exploitation, management of habitat, conservation status, or regulatory 
mechanisms exist and, therefore, meet the discreteness criterion under 
the DPS policy; however, intermixing between both alewife and blueback 
herring from U.S. and Canadian coastal waters occurs, and the extent of 
this mixing is unknown.
    Given the best available information, it is possible to determine 
that the various stocks of both alewife and blueback herring are 
discrete. The best available information suggests that the delineation 
of the stock complexes is as described above; however, future work will 
likely further refine these preliminary boundaries. Additionally, 
further information is needed on the oceanic migratory patterns of both 
species.

Information Related to Significance

    If a population is deemed discrete, the population is evaluated in 
terms of significance. Significance can be determined using the four 
criteria noted above. Since the best available information indicates 
that the stock complexes identified for alewives and blueback herring 
are most likely discrete, the SRT reviewed the available information to 
determine if they are significant.
    In evaluating the significance criterion, the SRT considered all of 
the above criteria. As indicated earlier, both alewives and blueback 
herring occupy a large range spanning almost the entire East Coast of 
the United States and into Canada. They appear to migrate freely 
throughout their oceanic range and return to freshwater habitats to 
spawn in streams, lakes and rivers. Therefore, they occupy many 
different ecological settings throughout their range.
    As described earlier, the Palkovacs et al. (2012, unpublished 
report) study assessed the genetic composition of alewife and blueback 
herring stocks within U.S. rivers using 15 neutral loci and documented 
that there are at least three stock complexes of alewife in the United 
States and four stock complexes of blueback herring in the United 
States. Palkovac et al. (2012, unpublished report) showed a strong 
effect of latitude on genetic divergence, suggesting that although most 
populations are genetically differentiated, gene flow is greater among 
neighboring runs than among distant runs. The genetic data are 
consistent with the recent results of the ASMFC stock assessment 
(2012), which noted that even among rivers within the same state, there 
are differences in trends in abundance indices, size-at-age, age 
structure and other metrics, indicating there are localized factors 
affecting the population dynamics of both species.
    Neutral genetic markers such as microsatellites have a longstanding 
history of utilization in stock designation for many anadromous fish 
species (Waples, 1998). However, these markers represent the effects of 
gene flow and historical population isolation and not the effects of 
adaptive processes. The effects of adaptive genetic and phenotypic 
diversity are also extremely important to consider in the context of 
stock designation, but are not captured by the use of neutral genetic 
markers. Therefore, the available genetic data are most appropriately 
used in support of the discreteness criterion, rather than to determine 
significance.
    Determining whether a gap in the range of the taxon would be 
significant if a stock were extirpated is difficult to determine with 
anadromous fish such as river herring. River herring are suspected to 
migrate great distances between their natal rivers and overwintering 
areas, and therefore, estuarine and marine populations are comprised of 
mixed stocks. Consequently, the loss of a stock complex would mean the 
loss of riverine spawning subpopulations, while the marine and 
estuarine habitat would most likely still be occupied by migratory 
river herring from other stock complexes. As it has been shown that 
gene flow is greater among neighboring runs than among distant runs, we 
might expect that river herring would re-colonize neighboring systems 
over a relatively short time frame. Thus, the loss of one stock complex 
in itself may not be significant; the loss of contiguous stock 
complexes may be. The goal then for river herring stock complexes is to 
maintain connectivity between genetic groups to support proper 
metapopulation function (spatially separated populations of the same 
species that interact, recolonize vacant habitats, and occupy new 
habitats through dispersal mechanisms (Hanski and Gilpin, 1991)).

DPS Determination

    Evidence for genetic differentiation exists for both alewife and 
blueback herring, allowing for preliminary identification of stock 
complexes; however, available data are lacking on the significance of 
each of these individual stock complexes. Therefore, we have determined 
that there is not enough evidence to suggest that the stock complexes 
identified through genetics should be treated under the DPS policy as 
separate DPSs. The stock complexes may be discrete, but under the DPS 
policy, they are not significant to the species as a whole. 
Furthermore, given the unknown level of intermixing between Canadian 
and U.S. river herring in coastal waters, the Canadian stock complex 
should also not be considered separately under the DPS policy.
    Throughout the rest of this determination, the species will be 
referred to by species (alewife or blueback herring), as river herring 
where information overlaps, and by the identified stock complexes 
(Palkovacs et al., 2012, unpublished report) for each species as 
necessary. While the individual stock complexes do not constitute 
separate DPSs, they are important components of the overall species and 
relevant to the evaluation of whether either species may be threatened 
or endangered in a significant portion of their overall range. 
Therefore, we have evaluated the threats to, and extinction risk of the 
overall species and each of the individual stock complexes as presented 
below. For this analysis, the identified stock complexes for alewife 
(Figure 1) in the coastal United States for the purposes of this 
finding will include Northern New England, Southern New England, the 
Mid-Atlantic, and Canada; and stock complexes for blueback herring 
(Figure 2) will include Northern New England, Southern New England, 
Mid-Atlantic, Southern Atlantic, and Canada. While the SRT concluded 
that there was not sufficient information at this time to determine 
with any certainty whether alewife or blueback herring stock complexes 
constitute separate DPSs, they recognized that future information on 
behavior, ecology and genetic population structure may reveal 
significant differences, showing fish to be uniquely adapted to each 
stock complex. We agree with this conclusion. Thus, we are not 
identifying DPSs for either species.

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[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN12AU13.005

Foreseeable Future and Significant Portion of Its Range

    The ESA defines an ``endangered species'' as ``any species which is 
in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its 
range,'' while a ``threatened species'' is defined as ``any species 
which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable 
future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.'' NMFS and 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servce (USFWS) recently published a draft 
policy to clarify the interpretation of the phrase ``significant 
portion of the range'' in the ESA definitions of ``threatened'' and 
``endangered'' (76 FR 76987; December 9, 2011). The draft policy 
provides that: (1) If a species is found to be endangered or threatened 
in only a significant portion of its range, the entire species is 
listed as endangered or threatened, respectively, and the ESA's 
protections apply across the species' entire range; (2) a portion of 
the range of a species is ``significant'' if its

[[Page 48953]]

contribution to the viability of the species is so important that, 
without that portion, the species would be in danger of extinction; (3) 
the range of a species is considered to be the general geographical 
area within which that species can be found at the time USFWS or NMFS 
makes any particular status determination; and (4) if the species is 
not endangered or threatened throughout all of its range, but it is 
endangered or threatened within a significant portion of its range, and 
the population in that significant portion is a valid DPS, we will list 
the DPS rather than the entire taxonomic species or subspecies.
    The Services are currently reviewing public comment received on the 
draft policy. While the Services' intent is to establish a legally 
binding interpretation of the term ``significant portion of the 
range,'' the draft policy does not have legal effect until such time as 
it may be adopted as final policy. Here, we apply the principles of 
this draft policy as non-binding guidance in evaluating whether to list 
alewife or blueback herring under the ESA. If the policy changes in a 
material way, we will revisit the determination and assess whether the 
final policy would result in a different outcome.
    While we have determined that DPSs cannot be defined for either of 
these species based on the available information, the stock complexes 
do represent important groupings within the range of both species. 
Thus, in our analysis of extinction risk and threats assessment below, 
we have evaluated whether either species is at risk rangewide and 
within any of the individual stock complexes so that we can evaluate 
whether either species is threatened or endangered in a significant 
portion of its range.
    We established that the appropriate period of time corresponding to 
the foreseeable future is a function of the particular type of threats, 
the life-history characteristics, and the specific habitat requirements 
for river herring. The timeframe established for the foreseeable future 
takes into account the time necessary to provide for the conservation 
and recovery of each species and the ecosystems upon which they depend, 
but is also a function of the reliability of available data regarding 
the identified threats and extends only as far as the data allow for 
making reasonable predictions about the species' response to those 
threats. As described below, the SRT determined that dams and other 
impediments to migration have already created a clear and present 
threat to river herring that will continue into the future. The SRT 
also evaluated the threat from climate change from 2060 to 2100 and 
climate variability in the near term (as described in detail below).
    Highly productive species with short generation times are more 
resilient than less productive, long lived species, as they are quickly 
able to take advantage of available habitats for reproduction (Mace et 
al., 2002). Species with shorter generation times, such as river 
herring (4 to 6 years), experience greater population variability than 
species with long generation times, because they maintain the capacity 
to replenish themselves more quickly following a period of low survival 
(Mace et al., 2002). Given the high population variability among 
clupeids, projecting out further than three generations could lead to 
considerable uncertainty in the probability that the model will provide 
an accurate representation of the population trajectory for each 
species. Thus, a 12 to 18 year timeframe (e.g., 2024-2030), or a three-
generation time period, for each species was determined by the Team to 
be appropriate for use as the foreseeable future for both alewife and 
blueback herring. We agree with the Team that a three-generation time 
period (12-18 years) is a reasonable foreseeable future for both 
alewife and blueback herring.
    Connectivity, population resilience and diversity are important 
when determining what constitutes a significant portion of the species' 
range (Waples et al., 2007). Maintaining connectivity between genetic 
groups supports proper metapopulation function, in this case, anadromy. 
Ensuring that river herring populations are well represented across 
diverse habitats helps to maintain and enhance genetic variability and 
population resilience (McElhany et al., 2000). Additionally, ensuring 
wide geographic distribution across diverse climate and geographic 
regions helps to minimize risk from catastrophes (e.g., droughts, 
floods, hurricanes, etc.; McElhany et al., 2000). Furthermore, 
preventing isolation of genetic groups protects against population 
divergence (Allendorf and Luikart, 2007).

Threats Evaluation

    As described above, Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA and NMFS 
implementing regulations (50 CFR 424) states that we must determine 
whether a species is endangered or threatened because of any one or a 
combination of the following factors: (A) Current or threatened habitat 
destruction or modification or curtailment of habitat or range; (B) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (C) disease or predation; (D) inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; and (E) other natural or man-made 
factors affecting the species' continued existence. This section 
briefly summarizes the findings regarding these factors.

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of Its Habitat or Range

    Past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future factors that have 
the potential to affect river herring habitat include, but are not 
limited to, dams and hydropower facilities, dredging, water quality 
(including land use change, water withdrawals, discharge and 
contaminants), climate change and climate variability. As noted above, 
river herring occupy a variety of different habitats including 
freshwater, estuarine and marine environments throughout their lives, 
and thus, they are subjected to habitat impacts occurring in all of 
these different habitats.
Dams and Other Barriers
    Dams and other barriers to upstream and downstream passage (e.g., 
culverts) can block or impede access to habitats necessary for spawning 
and rearing; can cause direct and indirect mortality from injuries 
incurred while passing over dams, through downstream passage 
facilities, or through hydropower turbines; and can degrade habitat 
features necessary to support essential river herring life history 
functions. Man-made barriers that block or impede access to rivers 
throughout the entire historical range of river herring have resulted 
in significant losses of historical spawning habitat for river herring. 
Dams and other man-made barriers have contributed to the historical and 
current declines in abundance of both blueback and alewife populations. 
While estimates of habitat loss over the entire range of river herring 
are not available, estimates from studies in Maine show that less than 
5 percent of lake spawning habitat and 20 percent of river habitat 
remains accessible for river herring (Hall et al., 2010). As described 
in more detail below, dams are also known to impact river herring 
through various mechanisms, such as habitat alteration, fish passage 
delays, and entrainment and impingement (Ruggles 1980; NRC 2004). River 
herring can undergo indirect mortality from injuries such as scale 
loss, lacerations, bruising, eye or fin damage, or internal 
hemorrhaging when passing through turbines, over spillways, and through 
bypasses (Amaral et al., 2012).

[[Page 48954]]

    The following summary of the effects of dams and other barriers on 
river herring is taken from Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery 
Management Plan for Shad and River Herring (hereafter, referred to as 
``Amendment 2'' and cited as ``ASMFC, 2009''). Because it includes a 
detailed description of barriers to upstream and downstream passage, it 
is the best source of comprehensive information on this topic. Please 
refer to Amendment 2 for more information.
    Dams and spillways impeding rivers along the East Coast of the 
United States have resulted in a considerable loss of historical 
spawning habitat for shad and river herring. Permanent man-made 
structures pose an ongoing barrier to fish passage unless fishways are 
installed or structures are removed. Low-head dams can also pose a 
problem, as fish are unable to pass over them except when tides or 
river discharges are exceptionally high (Loesch and Atran, 1994). 
Historically, major dams were often constructed at the site of natural 
formations conducive to waterpower, such as natural falls. Diversion of 
water away from rapids at the base of falls can reduce fish habitat, 
and in some cases cause rivers to run dry at the base for much of the 
summer (MEOEA, 2005; ASMFC, 2009).
    Prior to the early 1990s, it was thought that migrating shad and 
river herring suffered significant mortality going through turbines 
during downstream passage (Mathur and Heisey, 1992). Juvenile shad 
emigrating from rivers have been found to accumulate in larger numbers 
near the forebay of hydroelectric facilities, where they become 
entrained in intake flow areas (Martin et al., 1994). Relatively high 
mortality rates were reported (62 percent to 82 percent) at a 
hydroelectric dam for juvenile American shad and blueback herring, 
depending on the power generation levels tested (Taylor and Kynard, 
1984). In contrast, Mathur and Heisey (1992) reported a mortality rate 
of 0 percent to 3 percent for juvenile American shad (2 to 6 in fork 
length (55 to 140 mm)), and 4 percent for juvenile blueback herring (3 
to 4 in fork length (77 to 105 mm)) through Kaplan turbines. Mortality 
rate increased to 11 percent in passage through a low-head Francis 
turbine (Mathur and Heisey, 1992). Other studies reported less than 5 
percent mortality when large Kaplan and fixed-blade, mixed-flow 
turbines were used at a facility along the Susquehanna River (RMC, 
1990; RMC, 1994). At the same site, using small Kaplan and Francis 
runners, the mortality rate was as high as 22 percent (NA, 2001). At 
another site, mortality rate was about 15 percent where higher 
revolution, Francis-type runners were used (RMC, 1992; ASMFC, 2009).
    Additional studies reported that changes in pressure had a more 
pronounced effect on juveniles with thinner and weaker tissues as they 
moved through turbines (Taylor and Kynard, 1984). Furthermore, some 
fish may die later from stress, or become weakened and more susceptible 
to predation, and as such, losses may not be immediately apparent to 
researchers (Gloss, 1982) (ASMFC, 2009).
    Changes to the river system, resulting in delayed migration among 
other things, were also identified in Amendment 2 as impacting river 
herring. Amendment 2 notes that when juvenile alosines delay out-
migration, they may concentrate behind dams and become more susceptible 
to actively feeding predators. They may also be more vulnerable to 
anglers that target alosines as a source of bait. Delayed out-migration 
can also make juvenile alosines more susceptible to marine predators 
that they may have avoided if they had followed their natural migration 
patterns (McCord, 2005a). In open rivers, juvenile alosines gradually 
move seaward in groups that are likely spaced according to the spatial 
separation of spawning and nursery grounds (Limburg, 1996; J. McCord, 
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, personal observation). 
Releasing water from dams and impoundments (or reservoirs) may lead to 
flow alterations, altered sediment transport, disruption of nutrient 
availability, changes in downstream water quality (including both 
reduced and increased temperatures), streambank erosion, concentration 
of sediment and pollutants, changes in species composition, 
solubilization of iron and manganese and their absorbed or chelated 
ions, and hydrogen sulfide in hypolimnetic (water at low level outlets) 
releases (Yeager, 1995; Erkan, 2002; ASMFC, 2009).
    Many dams spill water over the top of the structure where water 
temperatures are the warmest, essentially creating a series of warm 
water ponds in place of the natural stream channel (Erkan, 2002). 
Conversely, water released from deep reservoirs may be poorly 
oxygenated, at below-normal seasonal water temperature, or both, 
thereby causing loss of suitable spawning or nursery habitat in 
otherwise habitable areas (ASMFC, 2009).
    Reducing minimum flows can reduce the amount of water available and 
cause increased water temperature or reduced dissolved oxygen levels 
(ASMFC, 1985; ASMFC, 1999; USFWS et al., 2001). Such conditions have 
occurred along the Susquehanna River at the Conowingo Dam, Maryland, 
from late spring through early fall, and have historically caused large 
fish kills below the dam (Krauthamer and Richkus, 1987; ASMFC, 2009).
    Disruption of seasonal flow rates in rivers can impact upstream and 
downstream migration patterns for adult and juvenile alosines (ASMFC, 
1985; Limburg, 1996; ASMFC, 1999; USFWS et al., 2001). Changes to 
natural flows can also disrupt natural productivity and availability of 
zooplankton that larval and early juvenile alosines feed on (Crecco and 
Savoy, 1987; Limburg, 1996; ASMFC, 2009).
    Although most dams that impact diadromous fish are located along 
the lengths of rivers, fish can also be affected by hydroelectric 
projects at the mouths of rivers, such as the large tidal hydroelectric 
project at the Annapolis River in the Bay of Fundy, Canada. This 
particular basin and other surrounding waters are used as foraging 
areas during summer months by American shad from all runs along the 
East Coast of the United States (Dadswell et al., 1983). Because the 
facilities are tidal hydroelectric projects, fish may move in and out 
of the impacted areas with each tidal cycle. While turbine mortality is 
relatively low with each passage, the repeated passage in and out of 
these facilities may cumulatively result in substantial overall 
mortalities (Scarratt and Dadswell, 1983; ASMFC, 2009).
    Additional man-made structures that may obstruct upstream passage 
include: tidal and amenity barrages (barriers constructed to alter 
tidal flow for aesthetic purposes or to harness energy); tidal flaps 
(used to control tidal flow); mill, gauging, amenity, navigation, 
diversion, and water intake weirs; fish counting structures; and 
earthen berms (Durkas, 1992; Solomon and Beach, 2004). The impact of 
these structures is site-specific and will vary with a number of 
conditions including head drop, form of the structure, hydrodynamic 
conditions upstream and downstream, condition of the structure, and 
presence of edge effects (Solomon and Beach, 2004). Road culverts are 
also a significant source of blockage. Culverts are popular, low-cost 
alternatives to bridges when roads must cross small streams and creeks. 
Although the amount of habitat affected by an individual culvert may be 
small, the cumulative impact of multiple culverts within a watershed 
can be substantial (Collier and Odom, 1989; ASMFC, 2009).
    Roads and culverts can also impose significant changes in water 
quality.

[[Page 48955]]

Winter runoff in some states may include high concentrations of road 
salt, while stormwater flows in the summer may cause thermal stress and 
bring high concentrations of other pollutants (MEOEA, 2005; ASMFC, 
2009).
    Sampled sites in North Carolina revealed river herring upstream and 
downstream of bridge crossings, but no herring were found in upstream 
sections of streams with culverts. Additional study is underway to 
determine if river herring are absent from these areas because of the 
culverts (NCDENR, 2000). Even structures only 8 to 12 in (20 to 30 cm) 
above the water can block shad and river herring migration (ASMFC, 
1999; ASMFC, 2009).
    Rivers can also be blocked by non-anthropogenic barriers, such as 
beaver dams, waterfalls, log piles, and vegetative debris. These 
blockages may hinder migration, but they can also benefit by providing 
adhesion sites for eggs, protective cover, and feeding sites (Klauda et 
al., 1991b). Successful passage at these natural barriers often depends 
on individual stream flow characteristics during the fish migration 
season (ASMFC, 2009).
Dredging
    Wetlands provide migratory corridors and spawning habitat for river 
herring. The combination of incremental losses of wetland habitat, 
changes in hydrology, and nutrient and chemical inputs over time, can 
be extremely harmful, resulting in diseases and declines in the 
abundance and quality. Wetland loss is a cumulative impact that results 
from activities related to dredging/dredge spoil placement, port 
development, marinas, solid waste disposal, ocean disposal, and marine 
mining. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the United States was losing 
wetlands at an estimated rate of 300,000 acres (1,214 sq km) per year. 
The Clean Water Act and state wetland protection programs helped 
decrease wetland losses to 117,000 acres (473 sq km) per year, between 
1985 and 1995. Estimates of wetlands loss vary according to the 
different agencies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 
attributes 57 percent of wetland loss to development, 20 percent to 
agriculture, 13 percent to the creation of deepwater habitat, and 10 
percent to forest land, rangeland, and other uses. Of the wetlands lost 
between 1985 and 1995, the USFWS estimates that 79 percent of wetlands 
were lost to upland agriculture. Urban development and other types of 
land use activities were responsible for 6 percent and 15 percent of 
wetland loss, respectively.
    Amendment 2 identifies channelization and dredging as a threat to 
river herring habitat. The following section, taken from Amendment 2, 
describes these threats.
    Channelization can cause significant environmental impacts (Simpson 
et al., 1982; Brookes, 1988), including bank erosion, elevated water 
velocity, reduced habitat diversity, increased drainage, and poor water 
quality (Hubbard, 1993). Dredging and disposal of spoils along the 
shoreline can also create spoil banks, which block access to sloughs, 
pools, adjacent vegetated areas, and backwater swamps (Frankensteen, 
1976). Dredging may also release contaminants, resulting in 
bioaccumulation, direct toxicity to aquatic organisms, or reduced 
dissolved oxygen levels (Morton, 1977). Furthermore, careless land use 
practices may lead to erosion, which can lead to high concentrations of 
suspended solids (turbidity) and substrate (siltation) in the water 
following normal and intense rainfall events. This can displace larvae 
and juveniles to less desirable areas downstream and cause osmotic 
stress (Klauda et al., 1991b; ASMFC, 2009).
    Spoil banks are often unsuitable habitat for fishes. Suitable 
habitat is often lost when dredge disposal material is placed on 
natural sand bars and/or point bars. The spoil is too unstable to 
provide good habitat for the food chain. Draining and filling, or both, 
of wetlands adjacent to rivers and creeks in which alosines spawn has 
eliminated spawning areas in North Carolina (NCDENR, 2000; ASMFC, 
2009).
    Secondary impacts from channel formation include loss of vegetation 
and debris, which can reduce habitat for invertebrates and result in 
reduced quantity and diversity of prey for juveniles (Frankensteen, 
1976). Additionally, stream channelization often leads to altered 
substrate in the riverbed and increased sedimentation (Hubbard, 1993), 
which in turn can reduce the diversity, density, and species richness 
of aquatic insects (Chutter, 1969; Gammon, 1970; Taylor, 1977). 
Suspended sediments can reduce feeding success in larval or juvenile 
fishes that rely on visual cues for plankton feeding (Kortschal et al., 
1991). Sediment re-suspension from dredging can also deplete dissolved 
oxygen, and increase bioavailability of any contaminants that may be 
bound to the sediments (Clark and Wilber, 2000; ASMFC, 2009).
    Migrating adult river herring avoid channelized areas with 
increased water velocities. Several channelized creeks in the Neuse 
River basin in North Carolina have reduced river herring distribution 
and spawning areas (Hawkins, 1979). Frankensteen (1976) found that the 
channelization of Grindle Creek, North Carolina removed in-creek 
vegetation and woody debris, which had served as substrate for 
fertilized eggs (ASMFC, 2009).
    Channelization can also reduce the amount of pool and riffle 
habitat (Hubbard, 1993), which is an important food-producing area for 
larvae (Keller, 1978; Wesche, 1985; ASMFC, 2009).
    Dredging can negatively affect alosine populations by producing 
suspended sediments (Reine et al., 1998), and migrating alosines are 
known to avoid waters of high sediment load (ASMFC, 1985; Reine et al., 
1998). Fish may also avoid areas that are being dredged because of 
suspended sediment in the water column. Filter-feeding fishes, such as 
alosines, can be negatively impacted by suspended sediments on gill 
tissues (Cronin et al., 1970). Suspended sediments can clog gills that 
provide oxygen, resulting in lethal and sub-lethal effects to fish 
(Sherk et al., 1974 and 1975; ASMFC, 2009).
    Nursery areas along the shorelines of the rivers in North Carolina 
have been affected by dredging and filling, as well as by erection of 
bulkheads; however, the degree of impact has not been measured. In some 
areas, juvenile alosines were unable to enter channelized sections of a 
stream due to high water velocities caused by dredging (ASMFC, 2000 and 
2009).
Water Quality
    Nutrient enrichment has become a major cumulative problem for many 
coastal waters. Nutrient loading results from the individual activities 
of coastal development, marinas and recreational boating, sewage 
treatment and disposal, industrial wastewater and solid waste disposal, 
ocean disposal, agriculture, and aquaculture. Excess nutrients from 
land based activities accumulate in the soil, pollute the atmosphere, 
pollute ground water, or move into streams and coastal waters. Nutrient 
inputs are known to have a direct effect on water quality. For example, 
nutrient enrichment can stimulate growth of phytoplankton that consumes 
oxygen when they decay, which can lead to low dissolved oxygen that may 
result in fish kills (Correll, 1987; Tuttle et al., 1987; Klauda et 
al., 1991b); this condition is known as eutrophication.
    In addition to the direct cumulative effects incurred by 
development activities, inshore and coastal habitats are also 
threatened by persistent increases in certain chemical discharges. The 
combination of incremental losses of wetland habitat, changes in 
hydrology, and nutrient and chemical inputs produced over time can

[[Page 48956]]

be extremely harmful to marine and estuarine biota, including river 
herring, resulting in diseases and declines in the abundance and 
quality of the affected resources.
    Amendment 2 identified land use changes including agriculture, 
logging/forestry, urbanization and non-point source pollution as 
threats to river herring habitat. The following section, taken from 
Amendment 2, describes these threats.
    The effects of land use and land cover on water quality, stream 
morphology, and flow regimes are numerous, and may be the most 
important factors determining quantity and quality of aquatic habitats 
(Boger, 2002). Studies have shown that land use influences dissolved 
oxygen (Limburg and Schmidt, 1990), sediments and turbidity (Comeleo et 
al., 1996; Basnyat et al., 1999), water temperature (Hartman et al., 
1996; Mitchell, 1999), pH (Osborne and Wiley, 1988; Schofield, 1992), 
nutrients (Peterjohn and Correll, 1984; Osborne and Wiley, 1988; 
Basnyat et al., 1999), and flow regime (Johnston et al., 1990; Webster 
et al., 1992; ASMFC, 2009).
    Siltation, caused by erosion due to land use practices, can kill 
submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). SAV can be adversely affected by 
suspended sediment concentrations of less than 15 ppm (15 mg/L) 
(Funderburk et al., 1991) and by deposition of excessive sediments 
(Valdes-Murtha and Price, 1998). SAV is important because it improves 
water quality (Carter et al., 1991). SAV consumes nutrients in the 
water and as the plants die and decay, they slowly release the 
nutrients back into the water column. Additionally, through primary 
production and respiration, SAV affects the dissolved oxygen and carbon 
dioxide concentrations, alkalinity, and pH of the waterbody. SAV beds 
also bind sediments to the bottom resulting in increased water clarity, 
and they provide refuge habitat for migratory fish and planktonic prey 
items (Maldeis, 1978; Monk, 1988; Killgore et al., 1989; ASMFC, 2009).
    Decreased water quality from sedimentation became a problem with 
the advent of land-clearing agriculture in the late 18th century 
(McBride, 2006). Agricultural practices can lead to sedimentation in 
streams, riparian vegetation loss, influx of nutrients (e.g., inorganic 
fertilizers and animal wastes), and flow modification (Fajen and 
Layzer, 1993). Agriculture, silviculture, and other land use practices 
can lead to sedimentation, which reduces the ability of semi-buoyant 
eggs and adhesive eggs to adhere to substrates (Mansueti, 1962; ASMFC, 
2009).
    From the 1950s to the present, increased nutrient loading has made 
hypoxic conditions more prevalent (Officer et al., 1984; Mackiernan, 
1987; Jordan et al., 1992; Kemp et al., 1992; Cooper and Brush, 1993; 
Secor and Gunderson, 1998). Hypoxia is most likely caused by 
eutrophication, due mostly to non-point source pollution (e.g., 
industrial fertilizers used in agriculture) and point source pollution 
(e.g., urban sewage).
    Logging activities can modify hydrologic balances and in-stream 
flow patterns, create obstructions, modify temperature regimes, and add 
nutrients, sediments, and toxic substances into river systems. Loss of 
riparian vegetation can result in fewer refuge areas for fish from 
fallen trees, fewer insects for fish to feed on, and reduced shade 
along the river, which can lead to increased water temperatures and 
reduced dissolved oxygen (EDF, 2003). Threats from deforestation of 
swamp forests include: siltation from increased erosion and runoff; 
decreased dissolved oxygen (Lockaby et al., 1997); and disturbance of 
food-web relationships in adjacent and downstream waterways (Batzer et 
al., 2005; ASMFC, 2009).
    Urbanization can cause elevated concentrations of nutrients, 
organics, or sediment metals in streams (Wilber and Hunter, 1977; Kelly 
and Hite, 1984; Lenat and Crawford, 1994). More research is needed on 
how urbanization affects diadromous fish populations; however, Limburg 
and Schmidt (1990) found that when the percent of urbanized land 
increased to about 10 percent of the watershed, the number of alewife 
eggs and larvae decreased significantly in tributaries of the Hudson 
River, New York (ASMFC, 2009).
Water Withdrawal/Outfall
    Water withdrawal facilities and toxic and thermal discharges have 
also been identified as impacting river herring, and the following 
section is summarized from Amendment 2.
    Large volume water withdrawals (e.g., drinking water, pumped-
storage hydroelectric projects, irrigation, and snow-making) can alter 
local current characteristics (e.g., reverse river flow), which can 
result in delayed movement past a facility or entrainment in water 
intakes (Layzer and O'Leary, 1978). Planktonic eggs and larvae 
entrained at water withdrawal projects experience high mortality rates 
due to pressure changes, shear and mechanical stresses, and heat shock 
(Carlson and McCann, 1969; Marcy, 1973; Morgan et al., 1976). While 
juvenile mortality rates are generally low at well-screened facilities, 
large numbers of juveniles can be entrained (Hauck and Edson, 1976; 
Robbins and Mathur, 1976; ASMFC, 2009).
    Fish impinged against water filtration screens can die from 
asphyxiation, exhaustion, removal from the water for prolonged periods 
of time, removal of protective mucous, and descaling (DBC, 1980). 
Studies conducted along the Connecticut River found that larvae and 
early juveniles of alewife, blueback herring, and American shad 
suffered 100-percent mortality when temperatures in the cooling system 
of a power plant were elevated above 82[emsp14][deg]F (28[deg]C); 80 
percent of the total mortality was caused by mechanical damage, 20 
percent by heat shock (Marcy, 1976). Ninety-five percent of the fish 
near the intake were not captured by the screen, and Marcy (1976) 
concluded that it did not seem possible to screen fish larvae 
effectively (ASMFC, 2009).
    The physical characteristics of streams (e.g., stream width, depth, 
and current velocity; substrate; and temperature) can be altered by 
water withdrawals (Zale et al., 1993). River herring can experience 
thermal stress, direct mortality, or indirect mortality when water is 
not released during times of low river flows and water temperatures are 
higher than normal. Water flow disruption can also result in less 
freshwater input to estuaries (Rulifson, 1994), which are important 
nursery areas for river herring and other anadromous species (ASMFC, 
2009).
    Industrial discharges may contain toxic chemicals, such as heavy 
metals and various organic chemicals (e.g., insecticides, solvents, 
herbicides) that are harmful to aquatic life (ASMFC, 1999). Many 
contaminants can have harmful effects on fish, including reproductive 
impairment (Safe, 1990; Mac and Edsall, 1991; Longwell et al., 1992). 
Chemicals and heavy metals can move through the food chain, producing 
sub-lethal effects such as behavioral and reproductive abnormalities 
(Matthews et al., 1980). In fish, exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls 
(PCBs) can cause fin erosion, epidermal lesions, blood anemia, altered 
immune response, and egg mortality (Post, 1987; Kennish et al., 1992). 
Steam power plants that use chlorine to prevent bacterial, fungal, and 
algal growth present a hazard to all aquatic life in the receiving 
stream, even at low concentrations (Miller et al., 1982; ASMFC, 2009).
    Pulp mill effluent and other oxygen-consuming wastes discharged 
into rivers and streams can reduce dissolved oxygen concentrations 
below what is

[[Page 48957]]

required for river herring survival. Low dissolved oxygen resulting 
from industrial pollution and sewage discharge can also delay or 
prevent upstream and downstream migrations. Everett (1983) found that 
during times of low water flow when pulp mill effluent comprised a 
large percentage of the flow, river herring avoided the effluent. 
Pollution may be diluted in the fall when water flows increase, but 
fish that reach the polluted waters downriver before the water has 
flushed the area will typically succumb to suffocation (Miller et al., 
1982; ASMFC, 2009).
    Effluent may also pose a greater threat during times of drought. 
Such conditions were suspected of interfering with the herring 
migration along the Chowan River, North Carolina, in 1981. In the years 
before 1981, the effluent from the pulp mill had passed prior to the 
river herring run, but drought conditions caused the effluent to remain 
in the system longer that year. Toxic effects were indicated, and 
researchers suggested that growth and reproduction might have been 
disrupted as a result of eutrophication and other factors (Winslow et 
al., 1983; ASMFC, 2009).
    Klauda et al. (1991a) provides an extensive review of temperature 
thresholds for alewife and bluback herring. In summary, the spawning 
migration for alewives most often occurs when water temperatures range 
from 50-64 [deg]F (10-18 [deg]C), and for bluebacks when temperatures 
range from 57-77 [deg]F (14-25 [deg]C). Alewife egg deposition most 
often occurs when temperatures range between 50-72 [deg]F (10 and 22 
[deg]C), and for bluebacks when temperatures range between 70-77 [deg]F 
(21 and 25 [deg]C). Alewife egg and larval development is optimal when 
temperatures range from 63--70 [deg]F (17-21 [deg]C), and for bluebacks 
when temperatures range from 68-75 [deg]F (20-24 [deg]C) (temperature 
ranges were also presented and discussed at the Climate Workshop (NMFS, 
2012b)). Thermal effluent from power plants outside these temperature 
ranges when river herring are present can disrupt schooling behavior, 
cause disorientation, and may result in death. Sewage can directly and 
indirectly affect anadromous fish. Major phytoplankton and algal blooms 
that reduced light penetration (Dixon, 1996) and ultimately reduced SAV 
abundance (Orth et al., 1991) in tidal freshwater areas of the 
Chesapeake Bay in the 1960s and early 1970s may have been caused by 
ineffective sewage treatment (ASMFC, 2009).
    Water withdrawal for irrigation can cause dewatering or reduced 
streamflow of freshwater streams, which can decrease the quantity of 
both spawning and nursery habitat for anadromous fish. Reduced 
streamflow can reduce water quality by concentrating pollutants and/or 
increasing water temperature (ASMFC, 1985). O'Connell and Angermeier 
(1999) found that in some Virginia streams, there was an inverse 
relationship between the proportion of a stream's watershed that was 
agriculturally developed and the overall tendency of the stream to 
support river herring runs. In North Carolina, cropland alteration 
along several creeks and rivers significantly reduced river herring 
distribution and spawning areas in the Neuse River basin (Hawkins, 
1979; ASMFC, 2009).
    Atmospheric deposition occurs when pollutants (e.g. nitrates, 
sulfates, ammonium, and mercury) are transferred from the air to the 
earth's surface. Pollutants can get from the air into the water through 
rain and snow, falling particles, and absorption of the gas form of the 
pollutants into the water. Atmospheric pollutants can result in 
increased eutrophication (Paerl et al., 1999) and acidification of 
surface waters (Haines, 1981). Atmospheric nitrogen deposition in 
coastal estuaries can lead to accelerated algal production (or 
eutrophication) and water quality declines (e.g., hypoxia, toxicity, 
and fish kills) (Paerl et al., 1999). Nitrate and sulfate deposition is 
acidic and can reduce stream pH (measure of the hydronium ion 
concentration) and elevate toxic forms of aluminum (Haines, 1981). When 
pH declines, the normal ionic salt balance of the fish is compromised 
and fish lose body salts to the surrounding water (Southerland et al., 
1997). Sensitive fish species can experience acute mortality, reduced 
growth, skeletal deformities, and reproductive failure (Haines, 1981).
Climate Change and Climate Variability
    Possible climate change impacts to river herring were noted in the 
stock assessment (ASMFC, 2012) based on regional patterns in trends 
(e.g., trawl surveys in southern regions showed declining trends more 
frequently compared to those in northern regions). However, additional 
information was needed on this topic to inform our listing decision, 
and as noted above, we held a workshop to obtain expert opinion on the 
potential impacts of climate change on river herring (NMFS, 2012b).
    As discussed at the workshop, both natural climate variability and 
anthropogenic-forced climate change will affect river herring (NMFS, 
2012b). Natural climate variability includes the Atlantic Multidecadal 
Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, and the El Ni[ntilde]o 
Southern Oscillation. During the workshop, it was noted that impacts 
from global climate change induced by human activities are likely to 
become more apparent in future years (Intergovernmental Panel on 
Climate Change (IPCC), 2007). Results presented from the North American 
Regional Climate Change Assessment Program (NARCCAP--a group that uses 
fields from the global climate models to provide boundary conditions 
for regional atmospheric models covering most of North America and 
extending over the adjacent oceans) suggest that temperature will warm 
throughout the years over the northeast, mid-Atlantic and Southeast 
United States (comparing 1968-1999 to 2038-2069; NMFS, 2012b). 
Additionally, it was noted that there is an expected but less certain 
increase in precipitation over the northeast United States during fall 
and winter during the same years (NMFS, 2012b). In conjunction with 
increased evaporation from warmer temperatures, the Northeast and mid-
Atlantic may experience decrease in runoff and decreased stream flow in 
late winter and early spring (NMFS, 2012b). Additionally, enhanced 
ocean stratification could be caused by greater warming at the ocean 
surface than at depth (NMFS, 2012b).
    Many observed changes in river herring biology related to 
environmental conditions were noted at the workshop, but few detailed 
analyses were available to distinguish climate change from climate 
variability. One analysis by Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries 
showed precipitation effects on spawning run recruitment at Monument 
River, MA (1980-2012; NMFS, 2012b). Jordaan and Kritzer (unpublished 
data) showed normalized run counts of alewife and blueback herring have 
a stronger correlation with fisheries and predators than various 
climate variables at broad scales (NMFS, 2012b). Once fine-scale (flow 
related to fishways and dams) data were used, results indicate that 
summer and fall conditions were more important. Nye et al. (2012) 
investigated climate-related mechanisms in the marine habitat of the 
United States that may impact river herring. Their preliminary results 
indicate the following: (1) A shift in northern ocean distribution for 
both blueback herring and alewife depending on the season; (2) decrease 
in ocean habitat within the preferred temperature for alewife and 
blueback herring in the spring; and (3) effects of climate change on 
river herring populations may depend on the current condition (e.g.,

[[Page 48958]]

abundance and health) of the population, assumptions, and temperature 
tolerances (e.g., blueback herring have a higher temperature tolerance 
than alewife).
    Although preliminary, Nye et al. (2012) indicate that climate 
change will impact river herring. The results (also supported by Nye et 
al., 2009) indicate that both blueback herring and alewife have and 
will continue to shift their distribution to more northerly waters in 
the spring, and blueback herring has also shifted its distribution to 
more northerly waters in the fall (1975-2010) (Nye et al., 2012). 
Additionally, Nye et al. (2012) found a decrease in habitat (bottom 
waters) within the preferred temperature for alewife and blueback 
herring in the spring under future climate predictions (2020-2060 and 
2060-2100). They concluded that an expected decrease in optimal marine 
habitat and natal spawning habitat will negatively affect river herring 
populations at the southern extent of their range. Additionally, Nye et 
al. (2012) infer that this will have negative population level effects 
and cause population declines in southern rivers, resulting in an 
observed shift in distribution which has already been observed. Nye et 
al. (2012) also found that the effects of climate change on river 
herring populations may depend on the current condition (e.g., 
abundance and health) of the population, assumptions, and temperature 
tolerances. Using the model, projections of alewife distribution and 
abundance can be predicted for each year, but for ease of 
interpretation, 2 years of low and high relative abundance were chosen 
to illustrate the effects of population abundance and temperature on 
alewife distribution. The low and high abundance years were objectively 
chosen as the years closest to -1 and +1 standard deviation from 
overall mean abundance. Two years closest to the -1 and +1 standard 
deviation from mean population abundance were selected to reflect the 
combined effect of warming with low and high abundance of blueback 
herring. The difference in species response (as noted below) may 
reflect the different temperature tolerances (9-11 [deg]C for blueback 
herring and 4-11 [deg]C for alewife) as indicated by the southern limit 
of their ranges. Blueback herring may be able to tolerate higher 
temperature as their range extends as far south as Florida, but the 
southern extent of the alewife's range is limited to North Carolina. 
For both species, the Nye et al. (2012) analysis indicates that, if 
robust populations of these species are maintained, declines due to the 
effects of climate change will be reduced. Their specific results 
include the following:
     Alewife: At low population size, coast-wide abundance is 
projected to decrease with less suitable habitat and patchy areas of 
high density in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank in 2060-2100. At 
high population size, abundance is projected to increase slightly from 
2020-2060 (+4.64 percent) but is projected to decrease (-39.14 percent) 
and become more patchy in 2060-2100.
     Blueback herring: Abundance is projected to increase at 
both high and low population size throughout the Northeast United 
States, especially in the mid-Atlantic and Georges Bank. However, at 
low abundance the increase is minimal and remains at a level below the 
40-year mean. The percentage change due to climate change (factoring 
only temperature) is +29.93 percent for the time period 2020-2060 and 
+55.81 percent from 2060-2100.
    We hoped to obtain information during the workshop on potential 
impacts of climate change by region, including information on species, 
life stage, indicators, potential impacts, and available data/relevant 
references (NMFS, 2012b). Although we did obtain information on each of 
these categories, substantial data gaps in the species information were 
apparent (NMFS, 2012b). For example, although no specific information 
on impacts of ocean acidification on river herring was presented, 
possible effects on larval development, chemical signaling (olfaction), 
and de-calcification of prey were noted (NMFS, 2012b). Additional 
research is needed to identify the limiting factor(s) for river herring 
populations. As Nye et al. (2012) noted, the links between climate and 
river herring biology during freshwater stages are unclear and will 
require additional time to research and thoroughly analyze. This 
conclusion is supported by the results of the workshop, which noted 
numerous potential climate effects on the freshwater stages, but little 
synthesis has been accomplished to date. The preliminary analysis of 
Nye et al. (2012) indicates that water temperatures in the rivers will 
be warmer, and there will be a decrease in the river flow in the 
northeast and Mid-Atlantic in late winter/early spring.
    Although current information indicates climate change is and will 
continue to impact river herring (e.g., Nye et al., 2012), climate 
variability rather than climate change is expected to have more of an 
impact on river herring from 2024-2030. Several studies have shown that 
the climate change signal is readily apparent by the end of the 21st 
century (Hare et al., 2010; Hare et al., 2012). At intermediate time 
periods (e.g., 2024-2030), the signal of natural climate variability is 
likely similar to the signal of climate change. Thus, a large component 
of the climate effect on river herring in 2024-2030 will be composed of 
natural climate variability, which could be either warming or cooling.
Summary and Evaluation of Factor A
    Dams and hydropower facilities, water quality and water withdrawals 
from urbanization and agricultural runoff, dredging and other wetland 
alterations are likely the causes of historical and recent declines in 
abundance of alewife and blueback herring populations. Climate 
variability rather than climate change is expected to have more of an 
impact on river herring from 2024-2030 (NMFS' foreseeable future for 
river herring). Nye et al., (2012) conducted a preliminary analysis 
investigating climate-related mechanisms in the marine habitat of the 
United States that may impact river herring, and found that changes in 
the amount of preferred habitat and a potential northward shift in 
distribution as a result of climate change may affect river herring in 
the future (e.g., 2020-2100). Thus, the level of threat posed by these 
potential stressors is evaluated further in the qualitative threats 
assessment as described below.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Educational Purposes

Directed Commercial Harvest
    This following section on river herring fisheries in the United 
States is from the stock assessment (ASMFC, 2012).
    Fisheries for anadromous species have existed in the United States 
for a very long time. They not only provided sustenance for early 
settlers but a source of income as the fisheries were commercialized. 
It is difficult to fully describe the characteristics of these early 
fisheries because of the lack of quantifiable data.
    The earliest commercial river herring data were generally reported 
in state and town reports or local newspapers. In 1871, the U.S. Fish 
Commission was founded (later became known as the U.S. Fish and 
Fisheries Commission in 1881). This organization collected fisheries 
statistics to characterize the biological and economic aspects of 
commercial fisheries. Data describing historical river herring 
fisheries were

[[Page 48959]]

available from two of this organization's publications--the Bulletin of 
the U.S. Fish Commission (renamed Fishery Bulletin in 1971; Collins and 
Smith, 1890; Smith, 1891) and the U.S. Fish Commission Annual Report 
(USFC, 1888-1940). In the stock assessment, the river herring data were 
transcribed and when available, dollar values were converted to 2010 
dollar values using conversion factors based on the annual average 
consumer price index (CPI) values, which were obtained from the U.S. 
Bureau of Labor Statistics. Note that CPI values are not available for 
years prior to 1913 so conversion factors could not be calculated for 
years earlier than 1913 (ASMFC, 2012).
    There are several caveats to using the historical fisheries data. 
There is an apparent bias in the area sampled. In most cases, there was 
no systematic sampling of all fisheries; instead, sampling appeared to 
be opportunistic, concentrating on the mid-Atlantic States. It is also 
difficult to assess the accuracy and precision of these data. In some 
instances, the pounds were reported at a fine level of detail (e.g., at 
the state/county/gear level), but details regarding the specific source 
of the data were often not described. The level of detail provided in 
the reports varied among states and years. Additionally, not all states 
and fisheries were canvassed in all years, so absence of landings data 
does not necessarily indicate the fishery was not active as it is 
possible that the data just were not collected. For these reasons, 
these historical river herring landings should not be considered even 
minimum values because of the variation in detail and coverage over the 
time series. No attempt was made to estimate missing river herring data 
since no benchmark or data characteristics could be found, and the 
stock assessment subcommittee also did not attempt to estimate missing 
data in a time series at a particular location because of the bias 
associated with these estimates (ASMFC, 2012).
    During 1880 to 1938, reported commercial landings of river herring 
along the Atlantic Coast averaged approximately 30.5 million lbs 
(13,835 mt) per year. The majority of river herring landed by 
commercial fisheries in these early years are attributed to the mid-
Atlantic region (NY-VA). The dominance of the mid-Atlantic region is, 
in part, due to the apparent bias in the spatial coverage of the 
canvass (see above). From 1920 to 1938, the average annual weight of 
reported commercial river herring landings was about 22.8 million lbs 
(10,351 mt). The value of the commercial river herring landings during 
this same time period was approximately 2.87 million dollars (2010 USD) 
(ASMFC, 2012).
    Domestic commercial landings of river herring were presented in the 
stock assessment by state and by gear from 1887 to 2010 where 
available. Landings of alewife and blueback herring were collectively 
classified as ``river herring'' by most states. Only a few states had 
species-specific information recorded for a limited range of years. 
Commercial landings records were available for each state since 1887 
except for Florida and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC), 
which began recording landings in 1929 and 1960, respectively. It is 
important to note that historical landings presented in the stock 
assessment do not include all landings for all states over the entire 
time period and are likely underestimated, particularly for the first 
third of the time series, since not all river landings were reported 
(ASMFC, 2012).
    Total domestic coast-wide landings averaged 18.5 million lb (8,399 
mt) from 1887 to 1928 (See table 2.2 in ASMFC (2012)). During this 
early time period, landings were predominately from Maryland, North 
Carolina, Virginia, and Massachusetts (overall harvest is likely 
underestimated because landings were not recorded consistently during 
this time). Virginia made up approximately half of the commercial 
landings from 1929 until the 1970s, and the majority of Virginia's 
landings came from the Chesapeake Bay, Potomac River, York River, and 
offshore harvest. Coast-wide landings started increasing sharply in the 
early 1940s and peaked at over 68.7 million lb (31,160 mt) in 1958 (See 
Table 2.2, ASMFC, 2012). In the 1950s and 1960s, a large proportion of 
the harvest came from Massachusetts purse seine fisheries that operated 
offshore on Georges Bank targeting Atlantic herring (G. Nelson, 
Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, Pers. comm., 2012). 
Landings from North Carolina were also at their highest during this 
time and originated primarily from the Chowan River pound net fishery. 
Severe declines in landings began coast-wide in the early 1970s and 
domestic landings are now a fraction of what they were at their peak, 
having remained at persistently low levels since the mid-1990s. 
Moratoria were enacted in Massachusetts (commercial and recreational in 
2005), Rhode Island (commercial and recreational in 2006), Connecticut 
(commercial and recreational in 2002), Virginia (for waters flowing 
into North Carolina in 2007), and North Carolina (commercial and 
recreational in 2007). As of January 1, 2012, river herring fisheries 
in states or jurisdictions without an approved sustainable fisheries 
management plan, as required under ASMFC Amendment 2 to the Shad and 
River Herring FMP, were closed. As a result, prohibitions on harvest 
(commercial or recreational) were extended to the following states: New 
Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, Virginia (for all 
waters), Georgia and Florida (ASMFC, 2012).
    Pound nets were identified as the dominant gear type used to 
harvest river herring from 1887 through 2010. Seines were more 
prevalent prior to the 1960s, but by the 1980s, they were rarely used. 
Purse seines were used only for herring landed in Massachusetts, but 
made up a large proportion of the landings in the 1950s and 1960s. 
Historically, gill nets made up a small percentage of the overall 
harvest. However, even though the actual pounds landed continued to 
decline, the proportion of gill nets that contributed to the overall 
harvest has increased in recent years (ASMFC, 2012).
    Foreign fleet landings of river herring (reported as alewife and 
blueback shad) are available through the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries 
Organization (NAFO). Offshore exploitation of river herring and shad 
(generally <7.5 in (190 mm) in length) by foreign fleets began in the 
late 1960s and landings peaked at about 80 million lbs (36,320 mt) in 
1969 (ASMFC, 2012).
    Total U.S. and foreign fleet harvest of river herring from the 
waters off the coast of the United States (NAFO areas 5 and 6) peaked 
at about 140 million lb (63,560 mt) in 1969, after which landings 
declined dramatically. After 1977 and the formation of the Fishery 
Conservation Zone, foreign allocation of river herring (to both foreign 
vessels and joint venture vessels) between 1977 and 1980 was 1.1 
million lb (499 mt). The foreign allocation was reduced to 220,000 lb 
(100 mt) in 1981 because of the condition of the river herring 
resource. In 1985, a bycatch cap of no more than 0.25 percent of total 
catch was enacted for the foreign fishery. The cap was exceeded once in 
1987, and this shut down the foreign mackerel fishery. In 1991, area 
restrictions were passed to exclude foreign vessels from within 20 
miles (32.2 km) of shore for two reasons: 1) In response to the 
increased occurrence of river herring bycatch closer to shore and 2) to 
promote increased fishing opportunities for the domestic mackerel fleet 
(ASMFC, 2012).
In-river Exploitation
    The stock assessment subcommittee calculated in-river exploitation 
rates of the spawning runs for five rivers (Damariscotta River (ME--
alewife),

[[Page 48960]]

Union River (ME--alewife), Monument River (MA--both species combined), 
Mattapoisett River (MA--alewife), and Nemasket River (MA--alewife)) by 
dividing in-river harvest by total run size (escapement plus harvest) 
for a given year. Exploitation rates were highest (range: 0.53 to 0.98) 
in the Damariscotta River and Union River prior to 1985, while 
exploitation was lowest (range: 0.26 to 0.68) in the Monument River. 
Exploitation declined in all rivers through 1991 to 1992. Exploitation 
rates of both species in the Monument River and of alewives in the 
Mattapoisett River and Nemasket River were variable (average = 0.16) 
and, except for the Nemasket River, declined generally through 2005 
until the Massachusetts moratorium was imposed. Exploitation rates of 
alewives in the Damariscotta River were low (<0.05) during 1993 to 
2000, but they increased steadily through 2004 and remained greater 
than 0.34 through 2008. Exploitation in the Damariscotta dropped to 
0.15 in 2009 to 2010. Exploitation rates of alewives in the Union River 
declined through 2005 but have remained above 0.50 since 2007 (ASMFC, 
2012).
    According to the stock assessment, exploitation of river herring 
appears to be declining or remaining stable. In-river exploitation was 
highest in Maine rivers (Damariscotta and Union) and has fluctuated, 
but it is currently lower than levels seen in the 1980s. Also, in-river 
exploitation in Massachusetts rivers (Monument and Mattapoisett) was 
declining at the time a moratorium was imposed in 2005. The coast-wide 
index of relative exploitation also declined following a peak in the 
late 1980s and has remained fairly stable over the past decade. 
Exploitation rates declined in the DB-SRA model runs except when the 
input biomass-to-K ratio in 2010 was 0.01. Exploitation rates estimated 
from the statistical catch-at-age model for blueback herring in the 
Chowan River (see the NC state report in the stock assessment) also 
showed a slight declining trend from 1999 to 2007, at which time a 
moratorium was instituted. There appears to be a consensus among 
various assessment methodologies that exploitation has decreased in 
recent times. The stock assessment indicates that the decline in 
exploitation over the past decade is not surprising because river 
herring populations are at low levels and more restrictive regulations 
or moratoria have been enacted by states (ASMFC, 2012).
    Past high exploitation may also be a reason for the high amount of 
variation and inconsistent patterns observed in fisheries-independent 
indices of abundance. Fishing effort has been shown to increase 
variation in fish abundance through truncation of the age structure, 
and recruitment becomes primarily governed by environmental variation 
(Hsieh et al., 2006; Anderson et al., 2008). When fish species are at 
very low abundances, as is believed for river herring, it is possible 
that the only population regulatory processes operating are stochastic 
fluctuations in the environment (Shepherd and Cushing, 1990) (ASMFC, 
2012).
Canadian Harvest
    Fisheries in Canada for river herring are regulated through limited 
seasons, gears, and licenses. Licenses may cover different gear types; 
however, few new licenses have been issued since 1993 (DFO, 2001). 
River-specific management plans include closures and restrictions. 
River herring used locally for bait in other fisheries are not 
accounted for in river-specific management plans (DFO, 2001). DFO 
estimated river herring landings at just under 25.5 million lb (11,577 
mt) in 1980, 23.1 million lb (10,487 mt) in 1988, and 11 million lb 
(4,994 mt) in 1996 (DFO, 2001). The largest river herring fisheries in 
Canadian waters occur in the Bay of Fundy, southern Gulf of Maine, New 
Brunswick, and in the Saint John and Miramichi Rivers where annual 
harvest estimates often exceed 2.2 million lb (1,000 mt) (DFO, 2001). 
Recreational fisheries in Canada for river herring are limited by 
regulations including area, gear and season closures with limits on the 
number of fish that can be harvested per day; however, information on 
recreational catch is limited. Licenses and reporting are not required 
by Canadian regulations for recreational fisheries, and harvest is not 
well documented.
Incidental Catch
    The following section on river herring incidental catch in the 
United States is from the stock assessment (ASMFC, 2012).
    Three recent studies estimated river herring discards and 
incidental catch (Cieri et al., 2008; Wigley et al., 2009; Lessard and 
Bryan, 2011). The discard and incidental catch estimates from these 
studies cannot be directly compared as they used different ratio 
estimators based on data from the Northeast Fishery Observer Program 
(NEFOP), as well as different raising factors to obtain total 
estimates. Cieri et al. (2008) estimated the kept (i.e., landed) 
portion of river herring incidental catch in the Atlantic herring 
fishery. Cieri et al. (2008) estimated an average annual landed river 
herring catch of approximately 71,290 lb (32.4 mt) in the Atlantic 
herring fishery for 2005-2007, and the corresponding coefficient of 
variation (CV) was 0.56. Cournane et al. (2010) extended this analysis 
with additional years of data. Further work is needed to elucidate how 
the landed catch of river herring in the directed Atlantic herring 
fishery compares to total incidental catch across all fisheries. Since 
this analysis only quantified kept river herring in the Atlantic 
herring fishery, it underestimates the total catch (kept plus 
discarded) of river herring across all fishing fleets. Wigley et al. 
(2009) quantified river herring discards across fishing fleets that had 
sufficient observer coverage from July 2007-August 2008. Wigley et al. 
(2009) estimated that approximately 105,820 lb (48 mt) were discarded 
during the 12 months (July 2007 to August 2008), and the estimated 
precision was low (149 percent CV). This analysis estimated only river 
herring discards (in contrast to total incidental catch), and noted 
that midwater trawl fleets generally retained river herring while otter 
trawls typically discarded river herring.
    Lessard and Bryan (2011) estimated an average incidental catch of 
river herring and American shad of 3.3 million lb (1,498 mt)/yr from 
2000-2008. The methodology used in this study differed from the 
Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology (SBRM) (the method used by 
NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) to quantify bycatch 
in stock assessments) (Wigley et al., 2007; Wigley et al., 2012). Data 
from NEFOP were analyzed at the haul level; however, the sampling unit 
for the NEFOP database is at the trip level. Within each gear and 
region, all data, including those from high volume fisheries, appeared 
to be aggregated across years from 2000 through 2008. However, 
substantial changes in NEFOP sampling methodology for high volume 
fisheries were implemented in 2005, limiting the interpretability of 
estimates from these fleets in prior years. Total number of tows from 
the fishing vessel trip report (VTR) database was used as the raising 
factor to estimate total incidental catch. The use of effort without 
standardization makes the implicit assumption that effort is constant 
across all tows within a gear type, potentially resulting in a biased 
effort metric. In contrast, the total kept weight of all species is 
used as the raising factor in SBRM. When quantifying incidental catch 
across multiple fleets, total kept weight of all species is an 
appropriate surrogate for effective fishing power because it is

[[Page 48961]]

likely that all trips will not exhibit the same attributes. Lessard and 
Bryan (2011) also did not provide precision estimates, which are 
imperative for estimation of incidental catch.
    The total incidental catch of river herring was estimated as part 
of the work for Amendment 14 to the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid and 
Butterfish (MSB) Fishery Management Plan, that includes measures to 
address incidental catch of river herring and shads. From 2005-2010, 
the total annual incidental catch of alewife ranged from 41,887 lb 
(19.0 mt) to 1.04 million lb (472 mt) in New England and 19,620 lb (8.9 
mt) to 564,818 lb (256.4 mt) in the Mid-Atlantic. The dominant gear 
varied across years between paired midwater trawls and bottom trawls. 
Corresponding estimates of precision (COV) exhibited substantial 
interannual variation and ranged from 0.28 to 3.12 across gears and 
regions. Total annual blueback herring incidental catch from 2005 to 
2010 ranged from 30,643 lb (13.9 mt) to 389,111 lb (176.6 mt) in New 
England and 2,645 lb (1.2 mt) to 843,479 lb (382.9 mt) in the Mid-
Atlantic. Across years, paired and single midwater trawls exhibited the 
greatest blueback herring catches, with the exception of 2010 in the 
mid-Atlantic where bottom trawl was the most dominant gear. 
Corresponding estimates of precision ranged from 0.27 to 3.65. The 
temporal distribution of incidental catches was summarized by quarter 
and fishing region for the most recent 6-year period (2005 to 2010). 
River herring catches occurred primarily in midwater trawls (76 
percent, of which 56 percent were from paired midwater trawls and the 
rest from single midwater trawls), followed by small mesh bottom trawls 
(24 percent). Catches of river herring in gillnets were negligible. 
Across gear types, catches of river herring were greater in New England 
(56 percent) than in the Mid-Atlantic (44 percent). The percentages of 
midwater trawl catches of river herring were similar between New 
England (37 percent) and the Mid-Atlantic (38 percent). However, 
catches in New England small mesh bottom trawls were three times higher 
(18 percent) than those from the Mid-Atlantic (6 percent). Overall, the 
highest quarterly catches of river herring occurred in midwater trawls 
during Quarter 1 in the Mid-Atlantic (35 percent), followed by catches 
in New England during Quarter 4 (16 percent) and Quarter 3 (11 
percent). Quarterly catches in small mesh bottom trawls were highest in 
New England during Quarter 1 (7 percent) and totaled 3 to 4 percent 
during each of the other three quarters.
Recreational Harvest
    The Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey (MRFSS) provided 
estimates of numbers of fish harvested and released by recreational 
fisheries along the Atlantic coast. The stock assessment subcommittee 
extracted state harvest and release estimates for alewives and blueback 
herring from the MRFSS catch and effort estimates files available on 
the web (http://www.sefsc.noaa.gov/about/mrfss.htm). Historically, 
there were few reports of river herring taken by recreational anglers 
for food. Most often, river herring were taken for bait. MRFSS 
estimates of the numbers of river herring harvested and released by 
anglers are very imprecise and show little trend. Thus, the stock 
assessment concluded that these data are not useful for management 
purposes. MRFSS concentrates their sampling strata in coastal water 
areas and does not capture any data on recreational fisheries that 
occur in inland waters. Few states conduct creel surveys or other 
consistent survey instruments (diary or log books) in their inland 
waters to collect data on recreational catch of river herring. Some 
data are reported in the state chapters in the stock assessment; but 
the stock assessment committee concluded that data are too sparse to 
conduct any systematic comparison of trends (ASMFC, 2012).
Scientific Monitoring and Educational Harvest
    Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island estimate run 
sizes using electronic counters or visual methods. Various counting 
methods are used at the Holyoke Dam fish lift and fishways on the 
Connecticut River. Young of year (YOY) surveys are conducted through 
fixed seine surveys capturing YOY alewife and blueback herring 
generally during the summer and fall in Maine, Rhode Island, 
Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, District of Columbia, 
Virginia and North Carolina. Rhode Island conducts surveys for juvenile 
and adult river herring at large fixed seine stations. Virginia samples 
river herring using a multi-panel gill net survey and electroshocking 
surveys. Florida conducts electroshocking surveys to sample river 
herring. Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, 
and North Carolina collect age data from commercial and fisheries 
independent sampling programs, and length-at-age data. All of these 
scientific monitoring efforts are believed to have minimal impacts on 
river herring populations.
Summary and Evaluation of Factor B
    Historical commercial and recreational fisheries for river herring 
likely contributed to the decline in abundance of both alewife and 
blueback herring populations. Current directed commercial and 
recreational alewife and blueback herring fisheries, as well as 
commercial fishery incidental catch may continue to pose a threat to 
these species. Since the 1970s, regulations have been enacted in the 
United States on the directed harvest of river herring in an attempt to 
halt or reverse their decline with the most recent regulations being 
imposed in January 2012. Additionally, there are regulations in Canada 
on river herring harvest. Historical landings data and current fishery 
effort is the best available information to describe the impact that 
the commercial fishery may be having on river herring.
    Moratoria are in place on directed catch of these species 
throughout most of the United States; however, they are taken as 
incidental catch in several fisheries. The extent to which incidental 
catch is affecting river herring has not been quantified and is not 
fully understood. Thus, the level of threat posed by directed and 
indirect catch is evaluated further in the qualitative threats 
assessment as described below. Scientific collections or collections 
for educational purposes do not appear to be significantly affecting 
the status of river herring, as they result in low mortality.

C. Disease and Predation

Disease
    Little information exists on diseases that may affect river 
herring; however, there are reports of a variety of parasites that have 
been found in both alewife and blueback herring. The most comprehensive 
report is that of Landry et al. (1992) in which 13 species of parasites 
were identified in blueback herring and 12 species in alewives from the 
Miramichi River, New Brunswick, Canada. The parasites found included 
one monogenetic trematode, four digenetic trematodes, one cestode, 
three nematodes, one acanthocephalan, one annelid, one copepod and one 
mollusk. The same species were found in both alewife and blueback 
herring with the exception of the acanthocephalan, which was absent 
from alewives.
    In other studies, Sherburne (1977) reported piscine erythrocytic 
necrosis (PEN) in the blood of 56 percent of prespawning and 10 percent 
of

[[Page 48962]]

postspawning alewives in Maine coastal streams. PEN was not found in 
juvenile alewives from the same locations. Coccidian parasites were 
found in the livers of alewives and other finfish off the coast of Nova 
Scotia (Morrison and Marryatt, 1990). Marcogliese and Compagna (1999) 
reported that most fish species, including alewife, in the St. Lawrence 
River become infected with trematode metacercariae during the first 
years of life. Examination of Great Lakes fishes in Canadian waters 
showed larval Diplostomum (trematode) commonly in the eyes of alewife 
in Lake Superior (Dechtiar and Lawrie, 1988) and Lake Ontario (Dechtiar 
and Christie, 1988), though intensity of infections was low (<9/host). 
Heavy infections of Saprolegnia, a fresh and brackish water fungus, 
were found in 25 percent of Lake Superior alewife examined, and light 
infections were found in 33 percent of Lake Ontario alewife (Dechtiar 
and Lawrie, 1988). Larval acanthocephala were also found in the guts of 
alewife from both lakes. Saprolegnia typically is a secondary 
infection, invading open sores and wounds, and eggs in poor 
environmental conditions, but under the right conditions it can become 
a primary pathogen. Saprolegnia infections usually are lethal to the 
host.
    More recently, alewives were found positive for Cryptosporidium for 
the first time on record by Ziegler et al. (2007). Mycobacteria, which 
can result in ulcers, emaciation, and sometimes death, have been found 
in many Chesapeake Bay fish, including blueback herring (Stine et al., 
2010).
Predation
    Information on predation of river herring was compiled and 
published in Volume I of the River Herring Benchmark Assessment (2012) 
by ASMFC. The following section on predation was compiled by Dr. Katie 
Drew from this assessment.
    Alewife and blueback herring are an important forage fish for 
marine and anadromous predators, such as striped bass, spiny dogfish, 
bluefish, Atlantic cod, and pollock (Bowman et al., 2000; Smith and 
Link, 2010). Historically, river herring and striped bass landings have 
tracked each other quite well, with highs in the 1960s, followed by 
declines through the 1970s and 1980s. Although populations of Atlantic 
cod and pollock are currently low, the populations of striped bass and 
spiny dogfish have increased in recent years (since the early 1980s for 
striped bass and since 2005 for spiny dogfish), while the landings and 
run counts of river herring remain at historical lows. This has led to 
speculation that increased predation may be contributing to the decline 
of river herring and American shad (Hartman, 2003; Crecco et al., 2007; 
Heimbuch, 2008). Quantifying the impacts of predation on alewife and 
blueback herring is difficult. The diet of striped bass has been 
studied extensively, and the prevalence of alosines varies greatly 
depending on location, season, and predator size (Walter et al., 2003). 
Studies from the northeast U.S. continental shelf show low rates of 
consumption by striped bass (alewife and blueback herring each make up 
less than 5 percent of striped bass diet by weight) (Smith and Link, 
2010), while studies that sampled striped bass in rivers and estuaries 
during the spring spawning runs found much higher rates of consumption 
(greater than 60 percent of striped bass diet by weight in some months 
and size classes) (Walter and Austin, 2003; Rudershausen et al., 2005). 
Translating these snapshots of diet composition into estimates of total 
removals requires additional data on both annual per capita consumption 
rates and estimates of annual abundance for predator species.
    The diets of other predators, including other fish (e.g., bluefish, 
spiny dogfish), along with marine mammals (e.g., seals) and birds 
(e.g., double-crested cormorant), have not been quantified nearly as 
extensively, making it more difficult to assess the importance of river 
herring in the freshwater and marine food webs. As a result, some 
models predict a significant negative effect from predation (Hartman, 
2003; Heimbuch, 2008), while other studies did not find an effect 
(Tuomikoski et al., 2008; Dalton et al., 2009).
    In addition to predators native to the Atlantic coast, river 
herring are vulnerable to invasive species such as the blue catfish 
(Ictalurus furcatus) and the flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris). 
These catfish are large, opportunistic predators native to the 
Mississippi River drainage that were introduced into rivers on the 
Atlantic coast. They have been observed to consume a wide range of 
species, including alosines, and ecological modeling on flathead 
catfish suggests they may have a large impact on their prey species 
(Pine, 2003; Schloesser et al., 2011). In August 2011, ASMFC approved a 
resolution calling for efforts to reduce the population size and 
ecological impacts of invasive species and named blue and flathead 
catfish specifically, as species of concern, due to their increasing 
abundance and potential impacts on native anadromous species. Non-
native species are a particular concern because of the lack of native 
predators, parasites, and competitors to keep their populations in 
check.
    Predation and multispecies models, such as the MS-VPA (NEFSC, 
2006), have tremendous data needs, and more research needs to be 
conducted before they can be applied to river herring. However, given 
the potential magnitude of predatory interactions, it is an area of 
research worth pursuing (ASMFC, 2012).
    Two papers have become available since the ASMFC (2012) stock 
assessment that discuss striped bass predation on river herring in 
Massachusetts and Connecticut estuaries and rivers, showing temporal 
and spatial patterns in predation (Davis et al., 2012; Ferry and 
Mather, 2012). Davis et al. (2012) estimated that approximately 400,000 
blueback herring are consumed annually by striped bass in the 
Connecticut River spring migration. In this study, striped bass were 
found in the rivers during the spring spawning migrations of blueback 
herring and had generally left the system by mid-June (Davis et al., 
2012). Many blueback herring in the Connecticut River are thought to be 
consumed prior to ascending the river on their spawning migration, and 
are, therefore, being removed from the system before spawning. 
Alternatively, Ferry and Mather (2012) discuss the results of a similar 
study conducted in Massachusetts watersheds with drastically different 
findings for striped bass predation. Striped bass were collected and 
stomach contents analyzed during three seasons from May through October 
(Ferry and Mather, 2012). The stomach contents of striped bass from the 
survey were examined and less than 5 percent of the clupeid category 
(from 12 categories identified to summarize prey) consisted of 
anadromous alosines (Ferry and Mather, 2012). Overall, the Ferry and 
Mather (2012) study observed few anadromous alosines in the striped 
bass stomach contents during the study period. These two recent studies 
echo similar contradictory findings from previous studies showing a 
wide variation in predation by striped bass with spatial and temporal 
effects; however, they exhibit no consistent trends along the coast.
Summary and Evaluation for Factor C
    While data are limited, the best available information indicates 
that river herring are not likely affected to a large degree by 
diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, protozoans, metazoans, or 
microalgae. Much of the

[[Page 48963]]

information on diseases in alewife or blueback herring comes from 
studies on landlocked species; therefore, even if studies indicated 
that landlocked alewife and blueback herring were highly susceptible to 
diseases and suffered high mortality rates, it is not known whether 
anadromous river herring would be affected in the same way. While it 
may be possible that disease threats to river herring could increase in 
prevalence or magnitude under various climate change scenarios, there 
are currently no data available to support this supposition. We have 
included disease as a threat in the qualitative threats assessment 
described in detail below.
    Alewife and blueback herring are considered to be an important 
forage fish for many marine and anadromous predators, and therefore, 
may be affected by predation, especially if some populations of 
predators (e.g., striped bass, spiny dogfish) continue to increase. 
There may also be effects from predation by invasive species such as 
the blue and flathead catfish. Some predation and multispecies models 
have estimated an effect of predation on river herring, while others 
have not. In general, the effect of predation on the persistence of 
river herring is not fully understood; however, predation may be 
affecting river herring populations and consequently, it is included as 
a threat in the qualitative threats assessment described below.

D. Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

    As wide-ranging anadromous species, alewife and blueback herring 
are subject to numerous Federal (U.S. and Canadian), state and 
provincial, Tribal, and inter-jurisdictional laws, regulations, and 
agency activities. These regulatory mechanisms are described in detail 
in the following section.
International
    The Canadian DFO manages alewife and blueback herring fisheries 
that occur in the rivers of the Canadian Maritimes under the Fisheries 
Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. F-14). The Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations 
includes requirements when fishing for or catching and retaining river 
herring in recreational and commercial fisheries (DFO, 2006; http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca).
    Commercial and recreational river herring fisheries in the Canadian 
Maritimes are regulated by license, fishing gear, season and/or other 
measures (DFO, 2001). Since 1993, DFO has issued few new licenses for 
river herring (DFO, 2001). River herring are harvested by various gear 
types (e.g., gillnet, dip nets, trap) and the regulations depend upon 
the river and associated location (DFO, 2001). The primary management 
measures are weekly closed periods and limiting the number of licenses 
to existing levels in all areas (DFO, 2001). Logbooks are issued to 
commercial fishermen in some areas as a condition of the license, and 
pilot programs are being considered in other areas (DFO, 2001). The 
management objective is to maintain harvest near long-term mean levels 
when no specific biological and fisheries information is available 
(DFO, 2001).
    DFO (2001) stated that additional management measures may be 
required if increased effort occurs in response to stock conditions or 
favorable markets. There has been concern as fishery exploitation rates 
have been above reference levels and fewer licenses are fished than 
have been issued (DFO, 2001). In 2001, DFO reported that in some rivers 
river herring were being harvested at or above reference levels (e.g., 
Miramichi), while in other rivers river herring were harvested at or 
below the reference point (e.g., St. John River at Mactaquac Dam). DFO 
(2001) believes precautionary management involving no increase or 
decrease in exploitation is important for Maritime river herring 
fisheries, given that biological and harvest data are not widely 
available. Additionally, DFO (2001) added that river-specific 
management plans based on stock assessments should be prioritized over 
general management initiatives.
    Eastern New Brunswick is currently the only area in the Canadian 
Maritimes with a river herring integrated fishery management plan (DFO, 
2006). The DFO uses Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (IFMPs) to 
guide the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources (DFO, 
2010). An IFMP manages a fishery in a given region by combining the 
best available science on the species with industry data on capacity 
and methods for harvesting (DFO, 2010). The 6-year management plan 
(2007-2012) for river herring for Eastern New Brunswick is implemented 
in conjunction with annual updates to specific fishery management 
measures (e.g., seasons). For example, it notes a management problem of 
gear congestion in some rivers and an approach to establish a carrying 
capacity of the river and find a solution to the gear limit by working 
with fishermen (DFO, 2006). At this time, an updated Eastern New 
Brunswick IFMP is not available.
Federal
ASMFC and Enabling Legislation
    Authorized under the terms of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries 
Compact, as amended (Pub. L. 81-721), the purpose of the ASMFC is to 
promote the better utilization of the fisheries (marine, shell, and 
anadromous) of the Atlantic seaboard ``by the development of a joint 
program for the promotion and protection of such fisheries, and by the 
prevention of the physical waste of the fisheries from any cause.''
    Given management authority in 1993 under the Atlantic Coastal 
Fisheries Cooperative Management Act (16 U.S.C. 5101-5108), the ASMFC 
may issue interstate FMPs that must be administered by state agencies. 
If the ASMFC believes that a state is not in compliance with a coastal 
FMP, it must notify the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior. If the 
Secretaries find the state not in compliance with the management plan, 
the Secretaries must declare a moratorium on the fishery in question.
Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act
    We manage river herring stocks under the authority of section 
803(b) of the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act 
(Atlantic Coastal Act) 16 U.S.C. 5101 et seq., which states, in the 
absence of an approved and implemented FMP under the Magnuson-Stevens 
Act (MSA, 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) and, after consultation with the 
appropriate Fishery Management Council(s), the Secretary of Commerce 
may implement regulations to govern fishing in the Exclusive Economic 
Zone (EEZ), i.e., from 3 to 200 nautical mi (nm) offshore. The 
regulations must be: (1) Compatible with the effective implementation 
of an Interstate Fishery Management Plan for American Shad and River 
Herring (ISFMP) developed by the ASMFC; and (2) consistent with the 
national standards set forth in section 301 of the MSA.
    The ASMFC adopted Amendment 2 to the ISFMP in 2009. Amendment 2 
establishes the foundation for river herring management. It was 
developed to address concerns that many Atlantic coast populations of 
river herring were in decline or are at depressed but stable levels, 
and that the ability to accurately assess the status of river herring 
stocks is complicated by a lack of fishery independent data.
    Amendment 2 requires states to close their waters to recreational 
and commercial river herring harvest, unless they have an approved 
sustainable management plan in place. To be approved, a state's plan 
must clearly

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meet the Amendment's standard of a sustainable fishery defined as ``a 
commercial and/or recreational fishery that will not diminish the 
potential future stock reproduction and recruitment.'' The plans must 
meet the definition of sustainability by developing and maintaining 
sustainability targets. States without an approved plan were required 
to close their respective river herring fisheries as of January 1, 
2012, until such a plan is submitted and approved by the ASMFC's Shad 
and River Herring Management Board. Proposals to re-open closed 
fisheries may be submitted annually as part of a state's annual 
compliance report. Currently, the states of ME, NH, RI, NY, NC, and SC 
have approved river herring management plans (see ``State section of 
Factor D'' for more information).
    In addition to the state sustainability plan mandate, Amendment 2 
makes recommendations to states for the conservation, restoration, and 
protection of critical river herring habitat. The Amendment also 
requires states to implement fisheries-dependent and independent 
monitoring programs, to provide critical data for use in future river 
herring stock assessments.
    While these measures address problems to the river herring 
populations in coastal areas, incidental catch in small mesh fisheries, 
such as those for sea herring, occurs outside state jurisdiction and 
remains a substantial source of fishing mortality according to the 
ASMFC. Consequently, the ASMFC has requested that the New England and 
Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils (NEFMC and MAFMC) increase 
efforts to monitor river herring incidental catch in small-mesh 
fisheries (See section on ``NEFMC and MAFMC recommendations for future 
river herring bycatch reduction efforts'').
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA)
    The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) 
is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in Federal 
waters. The MSA was first enacted in 1976 and amended in 1996 and 2006. 
Most notably, the MSA aided in the development of the domestic fishing 
industry by phasing out foreign fishing. To manage the fisheries and 
promote conservation, the MSA created eight regional fishery management 
councils. A 1996 amendment focused on rebuilding overfished fisheries, 
protecting Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), and reducing bycatch. A 2006 
amendment mandated the use of Annual Catch Limits (ACL) and 
Accountability Measures (AM) to end overfishing, provided for 
widespread market-based fishery management through limited access 
privilege programs, and called for increased international cooperation.
    The MSA requires that Federal FMPs contain conservation and 
management measures that are consistent with the ten National 
Standards. National Standard 9 states that conservation and 
management measures shall, to the extent practicable, (A) minimize 
bycatch and (B) to the extent bycatch cannot be avoided, minimize the 
mortality of such bycatch. The MSA defines bycatch as fish that are 
harvested in a fishery, but which are not sold or kept for personal 
use. This includes economic discards and regulatory discards. River 
herring is encountered both as bycatch and incidental catch in Federal 
fisheries. While there is no directed fishery for river herring in 
Federal waters, river herring co-occur with other species that have 
directed fisheries (Atlantic mackerel, Atlantic herring, whiting, squid 
and butterfish) and are either discarded or retained in those 
fisheries.
Essential Fish Habitat Under the MSA
    Under the MSA, there is a requirement to describe and identify EFH 
in each Federal FMP. EFH is defined as ``. . . those waters and 
substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth 
to maturity.'' The rules promulgated by the NMFS in 1997 and 2002 
further clarify EFH with the following definitions: (1) Waters--aquatic 
areas and their associated physical, chemical, and biological 
properties that are used by fish and may include aquatic areas 
historically used by fish where appropriate; (2) substrate--sediment, 
hard bottom, structures underlying the waters, and associated 
biological communities; (3) necessary--the habitat required to support 
a sustainable fishery and the managed species' contribution to a 
healthy ecosystem; and (4) spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to 
maturity--stages representing a species' full life cycle.
    EFH has not been designated for alewife or blueback herring, though 
EFH has been designated for numerous other species in the Northwest 
Atlantic. Measures to improve habitats and reduce impacts resulting 
from those EFH designations may directly or indirectly benefit river 
herring. Conservation measures implemented in response to the 
designation of Atlantic salmon EFH and Atlantic herring EFH likely 
provide the most conservation benefit to river herring over any other 
EFH designation. Habitat features used for spawning, breeding, feeding, 
growth and maturity by these two species encompasses many of the 
habitat features selected by river herring to carry out their life 
history. The geographic range in which river herring may benefit from 
the designation of Atlantic salmon EFH extends from Connecticut to the 
Maine/Canada border. The geographic range in which river herring may 
benefit from the designation of Atlantic herring EFH designation 
extends from the Maine/Canada border to Cape Hatteras.
    The Atlantic salmon EFH includes most freshwater, estuary and bay 
habitats historically accessible to Atlantic salmon from Connecticut to 
the Maine/Canada border (NEFMC, 2006). Many of the estuary, bay and 
freshwater habitats within the current and historical range of Atlantic 
salmon incorporate habitats used by river herring for spawning, 
migration and juvenile rearing. Among Atlantic herring EFHs are the 
pelagic waters in the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank, Southern New 
England, and middle Atlantic south to Cape Hatteras out to the offshore 
U.S. boundary of the EEZ (see NEFMC 1998). These areas incorporate 
nearly all of the U.S. marine areas most frequently used by river 
herring for growth and maturity. Subsequently, in areas where EFH 
designations for Atlantic salmon and Atlantic herring overlap with 
freshwater and marine habitats used by river herring, conservation 
benefits afforded through the designation of EFH for these species may 
provide similar benefits to river herring.
Federal Power Act (FPA) (16 U.S.C. 791-828) and Amendments
    The FPA, as amended, provides for protecting, mitigating damages 
to, and enhancing fish and wildlife resources (including anadromous 
fish) impacted by hydroelectric facilities regulated by the Federal 
Energy and Regulatory Commission (FERC). Applicants must consult with 
state and Federal resource agencies who review proposed hydroelectric 
projects and make recommendations to FERC concerning fish and wildlife 
and their habitat, e.g., including spawning habitat, wetlands, instream 
flows (timing, quality, quantity), reservoir establishment and 
regulation, project construction and operation, fish entrainment and 
mortality, and recreational access. Section 10(j) of the FPA provides 
that licenses issued by FERC contain conditions to protect, mitigate 
damages to, and enhance fish and wildlife based

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on recommendations received from state and Federal agencies during the 
licensing process. With regard to fish passage, Section 18 requires a 
FERC licensee to construct, maintain, and operate fishways prescribed 
by the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Commerce. Under 
the FPA, others may review proposed projects and make timely 
recommendations to FERC to represent additional interests. Interested 
parties may intervene in the FERC proceeding for any project to receive 
pertinent documentation and to appeal an adverse decision by FERC.
    While the construction of hydroelectric dams contributed to some 
historical losses of river herring spawning habitat, only a few new 
dams have been constructed in the range of these species in the last 50 
years. In some areas, successful fish passage has been created; thus, 
restoring access to many habitats once blocked. Thus, river herring may 
often benefit from FPA fishway requirements when prescriptions are made 
to address anadromous fish passage and during the re-licensing of 
existing hydroelectric dams when anadromous species are considered.
Anadromous Fish Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. 757a-757f) as Amended
    This law authorizes the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce to 
enter into cost sharing with states and other non-Federal interests for 
the conservation, development, and enhancement of the nation's 
anadromous fish. Investigations, engineering, biological surveys, and 
research, as well as the construction, maintenance, and operations of 
hatcheries, are authorized. This Act was last authorized in 2002, which 
provided 5 million dollars for the fiscal years 2005 and 2006 (Pub. L. 
107-372). There was an attempt to reauthorize the Act in 2012; however, 
this action has not yet been authorized.
Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (FWCA) (16 U.S.C. 661-666)
    The FWCA is the primary law providing for consideration of fish and 
wildlife habitat values in conjunction with Federal water development 
activities. Under this law, the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce 
may investigate and advise on the effects of Federal water development 
projects on fish and wildlife habitat. Such reports and 
recommendations, which require concurrence of the state fish and 
wildlife agency(ies) involved, must accompany the construction agency's 
request for congressional authorization, although the construction 
agency is not bound by the recommendations.
    The FWCA applies to water-related activities proposed by non-
Federal entities for which a Federal permit or license is required. The 
most significant permits or licenses required are Section 404 and 
discharge permits under the Clean Water Act and Section 10 permits 
under the Rivers and Harbors Act. The USFWS and NMFS may review the 
proposed permit action and make recommendations to the permitting 
agencies to avoid or mitigate any potential adverse effects on fish and 
wildlife habitat. These recommendations must be given full 
consideration by the permitting agency, but are not binding.
Federal Water Pollution Control Act, and amendments (FWPCA) (33 U.S.C. 
1251-1376)
    Also called the ``Clean Water Act,'' the FWPCA mandates Federal 
protection of water quality. The law also provides for assessment of 
injury, destruction, or loss of natural resources caused by discharge 
of pollutants.
    Of major significance is Section 404 of the FWPCA, which prohibits 
the discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters without 
a permit. Navigable waters are defined under the FWPCA to include all 
waters of the United States, including the territorial seas and 
wetlands adjacent to such waters. The permit program is administered by 
the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE). The Environmental Protection Agency 
(EPA) may approve delegation of Section 404 permit authority for 
certain waters (not including traditional navigable waters) to a state 
agency; however, the EPA retains the authority to prohibit or deny a 
proposed discharge under Section 404 of the FWPCA.
    The FWPCA (Section 401) also authorizes programs to remove or limit 
the entry of various types of pollutants into the nation's waters. A 
point source permit system was established by the EPA and is now being 
administered at the state level in most states. This system, referred 
to as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), sets 
specific limits on discharge of various types of pollutants from point 
source outfalls. A non-point source control program focuses primarily 
on the reduction of agricultural siltation and chemical pollution 
resulting from rain runoff into the nation's streams. This effort 
currently relies on the use of land management practices to reduce 
surface runoff through programs administered primarily by the 
Department of Agriculture.
    Like the Fish and Wildlife Coordination and River and Harbors Acts, 
Sections 401 and 404 of the FWPCA have played a role in reducing 
discharges of pollutants, restricting the timing and location of dredge 
and fill operations, and affecting other changes that have improved 
river herring habitat in many rivers and estuaries over the last 
several decades. Examples include reductions in sewage discharges into 
the Hudson River (A. Kahnle, New York State DEC, Pers. comm. 1998) and 
nutrient reduction strategies implemented in the Chesapeake Bay (R. St. 
Pierre, USFWS, Pers. comm. 1998).
Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899
    Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act requires a permit from the 
ACOE to place structures in navigable waters of the United States or 
modify a navigable stream by excavation or filling activities.
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 4321-4347)
    The NEPA requires an environmental review process of all Federal 
actions. This includes preparation of an environmental impact statement 
for major Federal actions that may affect the quality of the human 
environment. Less rigorous environmental assessments are reviewed for 
most other actions, while some actions are categorically excluded from 
formal review. These reviews provide an opportunity for the agency and 
the public to comment on projects that may impact fish and wildlife 
habitat.
Coastal Zone Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1451-1464) and Estuarine Areas 
Act
    Congress passed policy on values of estuaries and coastal areas 
through these Acts. Comprehensive planning programs, to be carried out 
at the state level, were established to enhance, protect, and utilize 
coastal resources. Federal activities must comply with the individual 
state programs. Habitat may be protected by planning and regulating 
development that could cause damage to sensitive coastal habitats.
Federal Land Management and Other Protective Designations
    Protection and good stewardship of lands and waters managed by 
Federal agencies, such as the Departments of Defense, Energy and 
Interior (National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges, as well as 
state-protected park, wildlife and other natural areas), contributes to 
the health of nearby aquatic systems that support important river 
herring

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spawning and nursery habitats. Relevant examples include the Great Bay, 
Rachel Carson's and ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserves, 
Department of Defense properties in the Chesapeake Bay, and many 
National Wildlife Refuges.
Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972 (MPRSA), Titles 
I and III and the Shore Protection Act of 1988 (SPA)
    The MPRSA protects fish habitat through establishment and 
maintenance of marine sanctuaries. The MPRSA and the SPA regulate ocean 
transportation and dumping of dredge materials, sewage sludge, and 
other materials. Criteria that the ACOE uses for issuing permits 
include considering the effects dumping has on the marine environment, 
ecological systems and fisheries resources.
Atlantic Salmon ESA Listing and Critical Habitat Designation
    In 2009, the Gulf of Maine (GOM) DPS of Atlantic salmon was listed 
as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (74 FR 29344). The GOM 
DPS includes all anadromous Atlantic salmon whose freshwater range 
occurs in the watersheds from the Androscoggin River northward along 
the Maine coast to the Dennys River. Concurrently in 2009, critical 
habitat was designated for the Atlantic salmon GOM DPS pursuant to 
section 4(b)(2) of the ESA (74 FR 29300; August 10, 2009). The critical 
habitat designation includes 45 specific areas occupied by Atlantic 
salmon at the time of listing, and includes approximately 12,160 miles 
(19,600 km) of perennial river, stream, and estuary habitat and 308 
square miles (495 sq km) of lake habitat within the range of the GOM 
DPS in the State of Maine.
    Measures to improve habitats and reduce impacts to Atlantic salmon 
as a result of the ESA listing may directly or indirectly benefit river 
herring. Atlantic salmon are anadromous and spend a portion of their 
life in freshwater and the remaining portion in the marine environment. 
River herring occupy a lot of the same habitats as listed Atlantic 
salmon for spawning, breeding, feeding, growth and maturity. Therefore, 
protection measures such as improved fish passage or reduced discharge 
permits may benefit river herring.
    The critical habitat designation provides additional protections 
beyond classifying a species as endangered by preserving the physical 
and biological features essential for the conservation of the species 
in designated waters in Maine. One of the biological features 
identified in the critical habitat designation for Atlantic salmon was 
freshwater and estuary migration sites with abundant, diverse native 
fish communities to serve as a protective buffer against predation. Co-
evolved diadromous fish species such as alewives and blueback herring 
are included in this native fish community. Because the ESA also 
requires that any Federal agency that funds, authorizes, or carries out 
an action ensure that the action does not adversely modify or destroy 
designated critical habitat, the impacts to alewife and blueback 
herring populations must be considered during consultation with NMFS to 
ensure that Atlantic salmon critical habitat is not adversely affected 
by a Federal action.
Atlantic Sturgeon ESA Listing
    In 2012, five distinct population segments of Atlantic sturgeon 
were listed under the ESA (77 FR 5914; 77 FR 5880). The Chesapeake Bay, 
New York Bight, Carolina, and South Atlantic DPSs of Atlantic sturgeon 
are listed as endangered, while the Gulf of Maine DPS is listed as 
threatened.
    Measures to improve habitats and reduce impacts to Atlantic 
sturgeon may directly or indirectly benefit river herring. Atlantic 
sturgeon are anadromous; adults spawn in freshwater in the spring and 
early summer and migrate into estuarine and marine waters where they 
spend most of their lives. As with Atlantic salmon, many of the 
habitats that Atlantic sturgeon occupy are also habitats that river 
herring use for spawning, migration and juvenile rearing. The 
geographic range in which river herring may benefit from Atlantic 
sturgeon ESA protections extends from the Maine/Canada border to 
Florida. Therefore, any protection measures within this range such as 
improved fish passage or a reduction of water withdrawals may also 
provide a benefit to river herring.
State Regulations
    A historical review of state regulations was compiled and published 
in Volume I of the stock assessment. The following section on state 
regulations includes current requirements only and is cited from Volume 
I of the assessment as compiled by Dr. Gary Nelson and Kate Taylor 
(ASMFC, 2012). Otherwise, updates are provided by Kate Taylor, 
supplemental information from state river herring plans or state 
regulations.
Maine
    In Maine, the Department of Marine Resources (DMR), along with 
municipalities granted the rights to harvest river herring resources, 
cooperatively manage municipal fisheries. Each town must submit an 
annual harvesting plan to DMR for approval that includes a 3-day per 
week escapement period or biological equivalent to ensure conservation 
of the resource. In some instances, an escapement number is calculated 
and the harvester passes a specific number upstream to meet escapement 
goals. River herring runs not controlled by a municipality and not 
approved as sustainable by the ASMFC River Herring and American Shad 
Management Board, as required under Amendment 2, are closed. Each run 
and harvest location is unique, either in seasonality, fish 
composition, or harvesting limitations. Some runs have specific 
management plans that require continuous escapement and are more 
restrictive than the 3-day closed period. Others have closed periods 
shorter than the 3-day requirement, but require an escapement number, 
irrespective of the number harvested during the season. Maine increased 
the weekly fishing closure from a 24-hour closure in the 1960s to a 48-
hour closure beginning in 1988. The closed period increased to 72 hours 
beginning in 1995 to protect spawning fish. Most towns operate a weir 
at one location on each stream and prohibit fishing at any other 
location on the stream. The state landings program compiles in-river 
landings of river herring from mandatory reports provided by the 
municipality under each municipal harvest plan or they lose exclusive 
fishing rights. The state permitted 22 municipalities to fish for river 
herring in 2011. The river specific management plans require the 
remaining municipalities to close their runs for conservation and not 
harvest. There are several reasons for these state/municipal imposed 
restrictions on the fishery. Many municipalities voluntarily restrict 
harvest to increase the numbers of fish that return in subsequent 
years. Some of these runs are large but have the potential to become 
even larger. The commercial fishery does not exploit the estimated 1.5 
to 2.0 million river herring that return to the East Machias River 
annually. These regulations have been approved through a sustainable 
fisheries management plan, as required under ASMFC Amendment 2 to the 
Shad and River Herring FMP (Taylor, Pers. Comm., 2013).
    Recreational fishermen are allowed to fish for river herring year-
round. The limit is 25 fish per day and gear is restricted to dip net 
and hook-and-line. Recreational fishermen may not fish in waters, or in 
waters upstream, of a

[[Page 48967]]

municipality that owns fishing rights. Recreational fishermen are not 
required to report their catch. The MRFSS and MRIP programs do sample 
some of these fishermen based on results queried from the database. 
Recreational fishing for river herring in Maine is limited and landings 
are low. These regulations have been approved through a sustainable 
fisheries management plan, as required under ASMFC Amendment 2 to the 
Shad and River Herring FMP (Taylor, Pers. Comm., 2013).
New Hampshire
    The current general regulations are: (1) No person shall take river 
herring, alewives and blueback herring, from the waters of the state, 
by any method, between sunrise Wednesday and sunrise Thursday of any 
week; (2) any trap or weir used during a specified time period, shall 
be constructed so as to allow total escapement of all river herring; 
and (3) any river herring taken by any method during the specified time 
period shall be immediately released back into the waters from which it 
was taken. Specific river regulations are: Taylor River--from the 
railroad bridge to the head of tide dam in Hampton shall be closed to 
the taking of river herring by netting of any method; and Squamscott 
River--during April, May and June, the taking of river herring in the 
Squamscott River and its tributaries from the Rt. 108 Bridge to the 
Great Dam in Exeter is open to the taking of river herring by netting 
of any method only on Saturdays and Mondays, the daily limit shall be 
one tote per person (``tote'' means a fish box or container measuring 
31.5 in (80.01cm) x 18 in (45.72 cm) x 11.5 in (29.21cm)) and the tote 
shall have the harvester's coastal harvest permit number plainly 
visible on the outside of the tote. These regulations have been 
approved through a sustainable fisheries management plan, as required 
under ASMFC Amendment 2 to the Shad and River Herring FMP.
Massachusetts
    As of January 1, 2012, commercial and recreational harvest of river 
herring was prohibited in Massachusetts, as required by ASMFC Amendment 
2 to the Shad and River Herring FMP (Taylor, Pers. Comm., 2013). The 
exception is for federally permitted vessels which are allowed to land 
up to 5 percent of total bait fish per trip (Taylor, Pers. Comm., 
2013).
Rhode Island
    The Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife (RIDFW) will 
implement a 5 percent bycatch allowance for Federal vessels fishing in 
the Atlantic herring fishery in Federal waters. RIDFW will also 
implement a mandatory permitting process that will require vessels 
wanting to fish in the Rhode Island waters Atlantic herring fishery to, 
amongst other requirements, integrate in to the University of 
Massachusetts Dartmouth, School for Marine Science and Technology, 
river herring bycatch monitoring program to ensure monitoring of the 
fishery and minimize bycatch. As of Jan 1, 2013, there is a prohibition 
to land, catch, take, or attempt to catch or take river herring which 
is a continuation of measures that RIDFW has had in place since 2006 
when a moratorium was originally established (Taylor, Pers. comm., 
2013).
Connecticut
    Since April 2002, there has been a prohibition on the commercial or 
recreational taking of migratory alewives and blueback herring from all 
marine waters and most inland waters. As of January 1, 2012, commercial 
and recreational harvest of river herring was prohibited in 
Connecticut, as required by ASMFC Amendment 2 to the Shad and River 
Herring FMP (Taylor, Pers. Comm., 2013).
New York
    Current regulations allow for a restricted river herring commercial 
and recreational fishery in the Hudson River and tributaries, while all 
other state waters prohibit river herring fisheries. These regulations 
have been approved through a sustainable fisheries management plan, as 
required under ASMFC Amendment 2 to the Shad and River Herring FMP.
New Jersey/Delaware
    As of January 1, 2012, commercial harvest of river herring was 
prohibited in New Jersey and Delaware, as required by ASMFC Amendment 2 
to the Shad and River Herring FMP. Additionally, only commercial 
vessels fishing exclusively in Federal waters while operating with a 
valid Federal permit for Atlantic mackerel and/or Atlantic herring may 
possess river herring up to a maximum of five percent by weight of all 
species possessed (Taylor, Pers. Comm.).
Maryland
    As of January 1, 2012, commercial harvest of river herring was 
prohibited in Maryland, as required by ASMFC Amendment 2 to the Shad 
and River Herring FMP. However, an exception is provided for anyone in 
possession of river herring as bait, as long as a receipt indicating 
where the herring was purchased is in hand (Taylor, Pers. comm). This 
will allow bait shops to sell, and fishermen to possess, river herring 
for bait that was harvested from a state whose fishery remains open, as 
an ASMFC approved sustainable fishery (Taylor, Pers. Comm).
Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC)/District of Columbia
    The PRFC regulates only the mainstem of the river, while the 
tributaries on either side are under Maryland and Virginia 
jurisdiction. The District of Columbia's Department of the Environment 
(DDOE) has authority for the Potomac River to the Virginia shore and 
other waters within District of Columbia. Today, the river herring 
harvest in the Potomac is almost exclusively taken by pound nets. In 
1964, licenses were required to commercially harvest fish in the 
Potomac River. After Maryland and Virginia established limited entry 
fisheries in the 1990s, the PRFC responded to industry's request and, 
in 1995, capped the Potomac River pound net fishery at 100 licenses. As 
of January 1, 2010, harvest of river herring was prohibited in the 
Potomac River, with a minimal bycatch provision of 50 lb (22 kg) per 
licensee per day for pound nets. These regulations have been approved 
through a sustainable fisheries management plan, as required under 
ASMFC Amendment 2 to the Shad and River Herring FMP.
Virginia
    Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) is 
responsible for the management of fishery resources in the state's 
inland waters. As of January 1, 2008, possession of alewives and 
blueback herring was prohibited on rivers draining into North Carolina 
(4 VAC 15-320-25). The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) is 
responsible for management of fishery resources within the state's 
marine waters. As of January 1, 2012, commercial and recreational 
harvest of river herring was prohibited in all waters of Virginia, as 
required by ASMFC Amendment 2 to the Shad and River Herring FMP. 
Additionally, it is unlawful for any person to possess river herring 
aboard a vessel on Virginia tidal waters, or to land any river herring 
in Virginia (4 VAC 20-1260-30).
North Carolina
    A no harvest provision for river herring, commercial and 
recreational, within North Carolina was approved in 2007. A limited 
research set aside of 7,500 lb (3.4 mt) was established, and to 
implement this harvest, a Discretionary Herring Fishing Permit (DHFP) 
was

[[Page 48968]]

created. Individuals interested in participating had to meet the 
following requirements: (1) Obtain a DHFP, (2) harvest only from the 
Joint Fishing Waters of Chowan River during the harvest period, (3) 
must hold a valid North Carolina Standard Commercial Fishing License 
(SCFL) or a Retired SCFL, and (4) participate in statistical 
information and data collection programs. Sale of harvested river 
herring had to be to a licensed and permitted River Herring Dealer. 
Each permit holder was allocated 125-250 lb (56-113 kg) for the 4-day 
season during Easter weekend. These regulations were approved through a 
sustainable fisheries management plan, as required under ASMFC 
Amendment 2 to the Shad and River Herring FMP. The North Carolina 
Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) has authority over the Inland 
Waters of the state. Since July 1, 2006, harvest of river herring, 
greater than 6 inches (15.24 cm) has been prohibited in the inland 
waters of North Carolina's coastal systems.
South Carolina
    In South Carolina, the South Carolina Division of Natural Resources 
(SCDNR) manages commercial herring fisheries using a combination of 
seasons, gear restrictions, and catch limits. Today, the commercial 
fishery for blueback herring has a 10-bushel daily limit (500 lb (226 
kg)) per boat in the Cooper and Santee Rivers and the Santee-Cooper 
Rediversion Canal and a 250-lb-per-boat (113 kg) limit in the Santee-
Cooper lakes. Seasons generally span the spawning season. All licensed 
fishermen have been required to report their daily catch and effort to 
the SCDNR since 1998.
    The recreational fishery has a 1-bushel (49 lb (22.7 kg)) fish 
aggregate daily creel for blueback herring in all rivers; however, very 
few recreational anglers target blueback herring. These regulations 
have been approved through a sustainable fisheries management plan, as 
required under ASMFC Amendment 2 to the Shad and River Herring FMP.
Georgia
    The take of blueback herring is illegal in freshwater in Georgia. 
As of January 1, 2012, harvest of river herring was prohibited in 
Georgia, as required by ASMFC Amendment 2 to the Shad and River Herring 
FMP.
Florida
    The St. Johns River, Florida, harbors the southernmost spawning run 
of blueback herring. There is currently no active management of 
blueback herring in Florida. As of January 1, 2012, harvest of river 
herring was prohibited, as required by ASMFC Amendment 2 to the Shad 
and River Herring FMP.
Tribal and First Nation Fisheries
    We have identified thirteen federally recognized East Coast tribes 
from Maine to South Carolina that have tribal rights to sustenance and 
ceremonial fishing, and which may harvest river herring for sustenance 
and ceremonial purposes and/or engage in other river herring 
conservation and management activities. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is 
the only East Coast tribe that voluntarily reported harvest numbers to 
the State of MA that were incorporated into the ASMFC Management Plan 
as subsistence harvest. The reported harvest for 2006 and 2008 ranged 
between 1,200 and 3,500 fish per year, with removals coming from 
several rivers. Aside from the harvest reported by ASMFC for the 
Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, information as to what tribes may harvest 
river herring for sustenance and/or ceremonial purposes is not 
available. Letters have been sent to all 13 potentially affected tribes 
to solicit any input they may have on the conservation status of the 
species and/or health of particular riverine populations, tribal 
conservation and management activities for river herring, biological 
data for either species, and comments and/or concerns regarding the 
status review process and potential implications for tribal trust 
resources and activities. To date, we have not received any information 
from any tribes.
Summary and Evaluation for Factor D
    As described in Factor A, there are multiple threats to habitat 
that have affected and may continue to affect river herring including 
dams/culverts, dredging, water quality, water withdrawals and 
discharge. However, many of these threats are being addressed to some 
degree through existing Federal legislation such as the Federal Water 
Pollution Control Act, also known as the Clean Water Act, the Coastal 
Zone Management Act, the Rivers and Harbors Act, the FPA, Marine 
Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, the Shore Protection 
Act of 1988, EFH designations for other species and ESA listings for 
Atlantic salmon and Atlantic sturgeon.
    Commercial harvest of alewife and blueback herring is occurring in 
Canada with regulations, closures, and quotas in effect. In the United 
States, commercial harvest of alewife and blueback herring is also 
currently occurring in a few states with regulations that have been 
approved through a sustainable fisheries management plan, as required 
under ASMFC Amendment 2 to the Shad and River Herring FMP. All other 
states had previously established moratoria or, as of January 1, 2012, 
harvest of river herring was prohibited, as required by ASMFC Amendment 
2 to the Shad and River Herring FMP. However, river herring are 
incidentally caught in several commercial fisheries, but the extent to 
which this is occurring has not been fully quantified. The New England 
and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils have adopted measures for 
the Atlantic herring and mackerel fisheries intended to decrease 
incidental catch and bycatch of alewife and blueback herring. In the 
United States, thirteen federally recognized East Coast tribes from 
Maine to South Carolina have tribal rights to sustenance and ceremonial 
fishing, and may harvest river herring for sustenance and ceremonial 
purposes and/or engage in other river herring conservation and 
management activities. We have further evaluated the existing 
international, Federal, and state management measures in the 
qualitative threats assessment section below.

E. Other Natural or Manmade Factors Affecting the Continued Existence 
of the Species

Competition
    Intra- and inter-specific competition were considered as potential 
natural threats to alewife and blueback herring. The earlier spawning 
time of alewife may lead to differences in prey selection from blueback 
herring, given that they become more omnivorous with increasing size 
(Klauda et al., 1991a). This could lead to differences in prey 
selection given that juvenile alewife would achieve a greater age and 
size earlier than blueback herring. Juvenile American shad are reported 
to focus on different prey than blueback herring (Klauda et al., 
1991b). However, Smith and Link (2010) found few differences between 
American shad and blueback herring diets across geographic areas and 
size categories; therefore, competition between these two species may 
be occurring. Cannibalism has been observed (rarely) in landlocked 
systems with alewife. Additionally, evidence of hybridization exists 
between alewife and blueback herring, but the implications of this are 
unknown. Competition for habitat or resources has not been documented 
with alewife/blueback herring hybrids, as there is little documentation 
of hybridization in published literature, but given the

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unknowns about their life history, it is possible that competition 
between non-hybrids and hybrids could be occurring.
Artificial Propagation and Stocking
    Genetics data have shown that stocking alewife and blueback herring 
within and out of basin in Maine has had an impact on the genetic 
groupings within Maine (Bentzen, 2012, unpublished data); however, the 
extent to which this poses a threat to river herring locally or coast-
wide is unknown. Stocking river herring directly impacts a specific 
river/watershed system for river herring in that it can result in 
passing fish above barriers into suitable spawning and rearing habitat, 
expanding populations into other watersheds, and introducing fish to 
newly accessible spawning habitat.
    The alewife restoration program in Merrymeeting Bay, Maine, focuses 
on stocking lakes and ponds in the Sebasticook River watershed and 
Seven Mile Stream drainage. The highest number of stocked fish was 
2,211,658 in 2009 in the Sebasticook River and 93,775 in 2008 in the 
Kennebec River. The annual stocking goal of the restoration projects 
range from 120,000 to 500,000 fish, with most fish stocked in the 
Androscoggin and Sebasticook watersheds. The Union River fishery in 
Ellsworth, Maine, is sustained through the stocking of adult alewives 
above the hydropower dam at the head-of-tide. Fish passage is not 
currently required at this dam, but fish are transported around the dam 
to spawning habitat in two lakes. The annual adult stocking rate (from 
2011 forward) is 150,000 fish. Adult river herring are trapped at a 
commercial harvest sites below the dam and trucked to waters upstream 
of the dam. The highest number of stocked fish in the Union River was 
1,238,790 in 1986. In the Penobscot River watershed, over 48,000 adult 
fish were stocked into lakes in 2012, using fish collected from the 
Kennebec (39,650) and Union Rivers (8,998). The New Hampshire Fish and 
Game stocks river herring into the Nashua River, the Pine Island Pond, 
and the Winnisquam Lake using fish from various rivers which have 
included the Connecticut, Cocheco, Lamprey, Kennebec, and Androscoggin 
Rivers. MA Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) conducts a trap and 
transport stocking program for alewife and blueback herring. Prior to 
the moratorium in the state, the program transported between 30,000 and 
50,000 fish per year into 10-15 different systems. Since the 
moratorium, effort has been reduced to protect donor populations and 
approximately 20,000 fish per year have been deposited into five to ten 
systems. Many of the recent efforts have been within system, moving 
fish upstream past multiple obstructions to the headwater spawning 
habitat. Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management (DEM) 
has been stocking the Blackstone River with adult broodstock which was 
acquired from existing Rhode Island river herring runs and other 
sources out of state. In April 2012, over 2,000 river herring pre-
spawned adults were stocked into the Blackstone River. A small number 
of alewife (200-400 fish) were stocked in the Bronx River, NY, in 2006 
and 2007 from Brides Brook in East Lyme, CT. Furthermore, an 
experimental stocking program exists in Virginia where hatchery 
broodstock are marked and stocked into the Kimages Creek, a tributary 
to the James River. A total of 319,856 marked river herring fry were 
stocked in this creek in 2011.
    The Edenton National Fish Hatchery (NFH) in North Carolina and the 
Harrison Lake NFH in Virginia have propagated blueback herring for 
restoration purposes. Edenton NFH is currently rearing blueback herring 
for stocking in Indian Creek and Bennett's Creek in the Chowan River 
watershed in Virginia. This is a pilot project to see if hatchery 
contribution makes a significant improvement in runs of returning 
adults (S. Jackson, USFWS, Pers. comm., 2012). Artificial propagation 
through the Edenton NFH for the pilot program in the Chowan River 
watershed is intended for restoration purposes, and it is not thought 
that negative impacts to anadromous blueback herring populations will 
be associated with these efforts.
Landlocked Alewife and Blueback Herring
    As noted above, alewives and blueback herring maintain two life 
history variants; anadromous and landlocked. It is believed that they 
diverged relatively recently (300 to 5,000 years ago) and are now 
discrete from each other. Landlocked alewife populations occur in many 
freshwater lakes and ponds from Canada to North Carolina as well as the 
Great Lakes (Rothschild, 1966; Boaze & Lackey, 1974). Landlocked 
blueback herring occur mostly in the southeastern United States and the 
Hudson River drainage. At this time, there is no substantive 
information that would suggest that landlocked populations can or would 
revert back to an anadromous life history if they had the opportunity 
to do so (Gephard and Jordaan, Pers. comm., 2012). The discrete life 
history and morphological differences between the two life history 
variants provide substantial evidence that upon becoming landlocked, 
landlocked herring populations become largely independent and separate 
from anadromous populations. Landlocked populations and anadromous 
populations occupy largely separate ecological niches, especially in 
respect to their contribution to freshwater, estuary and marine food-
webs (Palkovacs and Post, 2008). Thus, the existence of landlocked life 
forms does not appear to pose a significant threat to the anadromous 
forms.
Interbreeding Among Alewife and Blueback Herring (Hybridization)
    Recent genetic studies indicate that hybridization may be occurring 
in some instances among alewife and blueback herring where populations 
overlap (discussed in the River Herring Stock Structure Working Group 
Report, NMFS, 2012a). Though interbreeding among closely related 
species is uncommon, it does occasionally occur (Levin, 2002). Most 
often, different reproductive strategies, home ranges, and habitat 
differences of closely related species either prevent interbreeding, or 
keep interbreeding at very low levels. In circumstances where 
interbreeding does occur, natural selection often keeps hybrids in 
check because hybrids are less fit in terms of survival or their 
ability to breed successfully (Levin, 2002). Other times, intermediate 
environmental conditions can provide an environment where hybrids can 
thrive, and when hybrids breed with the member of the parent species, 
this can lead to ``mongrelization'' of one or both parent species; a 
process referred to as introgressive hybridization (Arnold, 1997). 
Introgressive hybridization can also occur as a result of introductions 
of closely related species, or man-made or natural disturbances that 
create environments more suitable for the hybrid offspring than for the 
parents (e.g., the introduction of mallards has led to the decline of 
the American black duck through hybridization and introgression) 
(Anderson, 1949; Rhymer, 2008).
    Though evidence has come forward that indicates that some 
hybridization may be occurring between alewife and blueback herring, 
there is not enough evidence to conclude whether or not hybridization 
poses a threat to one or both species of river herring. Most 
importantly, there is not enough evidence to show whether hybrids 
survive to maturity and, if so, whether they are capable of breeding 
with each

[[Page 48970]]

other or breeding with either of the parent species.
Summary and Evaluation of Factor E
    The potential for inter- and intra-specific competition has been 
investigated with respect to alewife and blueback herring. Differences 
have been observed in the diel activity patterns and in spawning times 
of anadromous alosids, and this may reduce inter- and intra- specific 
competition. However, it is possible that competition is occurring, as 
similarities in prey choice have been identified. Stocking is a tool 
that managers have used for hundreds of years with many different 
species of fish. This tool has been used as a means of supporting 
restoration (e.g., passing fish above barriers into suitable spawning 
and rearing habitat, expanding populations into other watersheds, and 
introducing fish to newly accessible spawning habitat). In addition, 
stocking has been used to introduce species to a watershed for 
recreational purposes. Stocking of river herring has occurred for many 
years in Maine watersheds, but is less common throughout the rest of 
the range of both species. Stocking in the United States has consisted 
primarily of trap and truck operations that move fish from one river 
system to another or over an impassible dam. Artificial propagation of 
river herring is not occurring to a significant extent, though blueback 
herring are being reared on a small scale for experimental stocking in 
North Carolina.
    We have considered natural or manmade factors that may affect river 
herring, including competition, artificial propagation and stocking, 
landlocked river herring, and hybrids. Several potential natural or 
manmade threats to river herring were identified, and we have 
considered the effects of these potential threats further in the 
qualitative threats assessment described below.

Threats Evaluation for Alewife and Blueback Herring

    During the course of the Status Review for river herring, 22 
potential threats to alewife and blueback herring were identified that 
relate to one or more of the five ESA section 4(a)(1) factors 
identified above. The SRT conducted a qualitative threats assessment 
(QTA) to help evaluate the significance of the threats to both species 
of river herring now and into the foreseeable future. NMFS has used 
qualitative analyses to estimate extinction risk in previous status 
reviews on the West Coast (e.g., Pacific salmon, Pacific herring, 
Pacific hake, rockfish, and eulachon) and East Coast (e.g., Atlantic 
sturgeon, cusk, Atlantic wolffish), and the River Herring SRT developed 
a qualitative ranking system that was adapted from these types of 
qualitative analyses. The results from the threats assessment have been 
organized and described according to the above mentioned section 
4(a)(1) factors. They were used in combination with the results of the 
extinction risk modeling to make a determination as to whether listing 
is warranted.
    When ranking each threat, Team members considered how various 
demographic variables (e.g., abundance, population size, productivity, 
spatial structure and genetic diversity) may be affected by a 
particular threat. While Factor D, ``inadequacy of existing regulatory 
mechanisms,'' is a different type of factor, the impacts on the species 
resulting from unregulated or inadequately regulated threats should be 
evaluated in the same way as the other four factors.

QTA Methods

    All nine SRT members conducted an independent, qualitative ranking 
of the severity of each of the 22 identified threats to alewives and 
blueback herring. NERO staff developed fact sheets for the SRT that 
contained essential information about the particular threats under each 
of the five ESA section 4(a)(1) factors, attempts to ameliorate these 
threats, and how the threats are or may be affecting both species. 
These fact sheets were reviewed by various experts within NMFS to 
ensure that they contained all of the best available information for 
each of the factors.
    Team members ranked the threats separately for both species at a 
rangewide scale and at the individual stock complex level. Each Team 
member was allotted five likelihood points to rank each threat. Team 
members ranked the severity of each threat through the allocation of 
these five likelihood points across five ranks ranging from ``low'' to 
``high.'' Each Team member could allocate all five likelihood points to 
one rank or distribute the likelihood points across several ranks to 
account for any uncertainty. Each individual Team member distributed 
the likelihood points as he/she deemed appropriate with the condition 
that all five likelihood points had to be used for each threat. Team 
members also had the option of ranking the threat as ``0'' to indicate 
that in their opinion there were insufficient data to assign a rank, or 
``N/A'' if in their opinion the threat was not relevant to the species 
either throughout its range or for individual stock complexes. When a 
Team member chose either N/A (Not Applicable) or 0 (Unknown) for a 
threat, all 5 likelihood points had to be assigned to that rank only. 
Qualitative descriptions of ranks for the threats listed for alewife 
and blueback herring (Table 1, 2) are:
     N/A--Not Applicable.
     0--Unknown.
     1 Low--It is likely that this threat is not significantly 
affecting the species now and into the foreseeable future, and that 
this threat is limited in geographic scope or is localized within the 
species/stock complex' range.
     2 Moderately Low--Threat falls between rankings 1 and 3.
     3 Moderate--It is likely that this threat has some effect 
on the species now and into the foreseeable future, and it is 
widespread throughout the species/stock complex' range.
     4 Moderately High--Threat falls between rankings 3 and 5.
     5 High--It is likely that this threat is significantly 
affecting the species now and into the foreseeable future, and it is 
widespread in geographic scope and pervasive throughout the species/
stock complex' range.
    The SRT identified and ranked 22 threats to both species both 
rangewide and for the individual stock complexes. Threats included dams 
and barriers, dredging, water quality and water withdrawals, climate 
change/variability, harvest (both directed and incidental), disease, 
predation, management internationally, federally, and at the state 
level, competition, artificial propagation and stocking, hybrids, and 
from landlocked populations.

QTA Results

    The SRT unequivocally identified dams and barriers as the most 
important threat to alewife and blueback herring populations both 
rangewide and across all stock complexes (the qualitative ranking for 
dams and barriers was between moderately high and high). Incidental 
catch, climate change, dredging, water quality, water withdrawal/
outfall, predation, and existing regulation were among the more 
important threats after dams for both species, and for all stock 
complexes (qualitative rankings for these threats ranged between 
moderately low and moderate). Water quality, water withdrawal/outfall, 
predation, climate change and climate variability were generally seen 
as greater threats to both species in the southern portion of their 
ranges than in the northern portion of their ranges. In addition, the 
Team identified commercial harvest as being notably

[[Page 48971]]

more important in Canada than in the United States. The results of the 
threats analysis for alewives are presented in Tables 1-5 and Figure 3. 
The results of the threats analysis for blueback herring are presented 
in Tables 6-10 and Figure 4.

QTA Conclusion

    The distribution of rankings across threat levels provides a way to 
evaluate certainty in the threat level for each of the threats 
identified. The amount of certainty for a threat is a reflection of the 
amount of evidence that links a particular threat to the continued 
survival of each species. For threats with more data, there tended to 
be more certainty surrounding the threat level, whereas threats with 
fewer data tended to have more uncertainty. The same holds true for 
datasets that were limited over space and/or time.
    The results of the threats assessment rangewide and for all stock 
complexes reveal strong agreement and low uncertainty among the 
reviewers that dams and barriers are the greatest threat to both 
alewives and blueback herring. There was also strong agreement that 
tribal fisheries, scientific monitoring, and educational harvest 
currently pose little threat to the species. For the threats of state, 
Federal and international management, dredging, climate change, climate 
variability, predation, and incidental catch, there was more 
uncertainty.
    Among alewife and blueback stock complexes, Canada, the Mid-
Atlantic, and South Atlantic diverged the most from the other stock 
complexes with respect to certainty of threats. In Canada there was 
more certainty surrounding the threats of climate change and climate 
variability for both species, and less certainty surrounding the threat 
of directed commercial harvest and incidental catch for alewives 
compared to the certainty surrounding these threats for the other stock 
complexes. In the mid-Atlantic for alewives and South-Atlantic for 
bluebacks, there was more uncertainty surrounding climate variability 
and climate change compared to the certainty surrounding these threats 
for the other stock complexes.
    Based on the Team member rankings, dams and other barriers present 
the greatest and most persistent threat rangewide to both blueback 
herring and alewife (Tables 12-13). Dams and culverts block access to 
historical migratory corridors and spawning locations, in some 
instances, even when fish passage facilities are present. Centuries of 
blocked and reduced access to spawning and rearing habitat have 
resulted in decreased overall production potential of watersheds along 
the Atlantic coast for alewives and blueback herring (Hall et al., 
2012). This reduced production potential has likely been one of the 
main drivers in the decreased abundance of both species. The recent 
ASMFC Stock Assessment (2012) attempted to quantify biomass estimates 
for both alewife and blueback herring but was unable to develop an 
acceptable model to complete a biomass estimate. Therefore, it is 
difficult to accurately quantify the declines from historical biomass 
to present-day biomass, though significant declines have been noted. 
Studies from Maine show that dams have reduced accessible habitat to a 
fraction of historical levels, 5 percent for alewives and 20 percent 
for blueback herring (Hall et al., 2011).
    Rangewide, for alewife and blueback herring, no other threats rose 
to the level of dams, but several other stressors ranked near the 
moderate threat level. The Team ranked incidental catch, water quality, 
and predation as threats likely to have some effect on the species now 
and into the foreseeable future that are widespread throughout the 
species' range. Incidental catch is primarily from fisheries that use 
small-mesh mobile gear, such as bottom and midwater trawls. Sources of 
water quality problems vary from river to river and are therefore 
unique to each of the stock complexes. And finally, predation by 
striped bass, seals, double-crested cormorants (and other fish-eating 
avian species, e.g., northern gannets) and other predators is known to 
exist, but data are lacking on the overall magnitude. Overall, the 
degree of certainty associated with these mid-level threats is much 
lower, primarily due to lack of information on how these stressors are 
affecting both species.
    The SRT's qualitative rankings and analysis of threats for alewife 
rangewide and for each stock complex:
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    The SRT's qualitative rankings of threats for blueback herring 
rangewide and for each stock complex:
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Extinction Risk Analysis

    In order to assess the risk of extinction for alewife and blueback 
herring, trends in the relative abundance of alewife and blueback 
herring were assessed for each species rangewide, as well as for each 
species-specific stock complex. As noted previously, for alewife, the 
stock complexes include Canada, Northern New England, Southern New 
England and the mid-Atlantic. For blueback herring, the stock complexes 
are Canada, Northern New England, Southern New England, mid-Atlantic 
and Southern.

Criteria Established by SRT for Evaluating Risk

    Prior to conducting the trend analysis modeling, the SRT 
established criteria that would be used to evaluate the risk to both 
species as well as to the individual stock complexes. At the SRT's 
request, the NEFSC conducted modeling to develop trends in relative 
abundance by estimating the population growth rate for both species 
both rangewide and for each individual stock complex. The SRT 
established two tiers that could be used separately or in combination 
to interpret the results of the modeling in order to assess risk to 
alewife and blueback herring rangewide and for the individual stock 
complexes. We concur that these tiers are appropriate. Tier A relates 
to what is known about the geographic distribution, habitat 
connectivity and genetic diversity of each species, and Tier B relates 
to the risk thresholds established for the trend analysis that was 
conducted by the NEFSC. These tiers are subject to change in the future 
as more information becomes available. For example, Tier A is based on 
preliminary genetic data addressing possible stock complexes, which 
could change in the future. Data related to both tiers were assessed to 
determine if sufficient information was available to make a conclusion 
under one or both of the tiers. The SRT decided that, because of 
significant uncertainties associated with the available data and a 
significant number of data deficiencies for both species, it was not 
necessary to have information under both tiers in order to make a risk 
determination, and we concur with this decision.
    The goal of Tier A was to maintain three contiguous stock complexes 
that are stable or increasing as this: (1) Satisfies the need to 
maintain both geographic closeness and geographic distance for a 
properly functioning metapopulation (see McElhany et al., 2000); (2) 
ensures that the recovered population does not include isolated genetic 
groups that could lead to genetic divergence (McDowall, 2003, Quinn, 
1984); (3) provides some assurance that the species persists across a 
relatively wide geographic area supporting diverse environmental 
conditions and diverse habitat types; and (4) ensures that the entire 
population does not share the same risk from localized environmental 
catastrophe (McElhany et al., 2000).
    Tier B information was used to directly interpret the results of 
the trends in relative abundance modeling

[[Page 48987]]

conducted by the NEFSC. As described below, relative abundance of both 
alewife and blueback herring was used to estimate growth rate (along 
with the 95 percent confidence intervals for the growth rates) for each 
species rangewide and for each stock complex. Tier B established risk 
criteria depending on the outcomes of the population growth rate 
modeling. As indicated in the foreseeable future section above, a 12- 
to 18-year timeframe (e.g., 2024-2030) for each species was determined 
to be appropriate. After subsequent discussions, the SRT decided that 
the projections into the foreseeable future would not provide 
meaningful information for the extinction risk analysis. As noted 
previously, the trend analysis provides a steady population growth 
rate. If the population growth rate is positive and everything else 
remains the same into the foreseeable future (e.g., natural and 
anthropogenic mortality rates do not change), the abundance into the 
foreseeable future will continue to increase. If the population growth 
rate is negative, then the abundance into the foreseeable future will 
continue to decline. Currently, there is insufficient information 
available to modify any of the factors that may change the growth rates 
into the foreseeable future, and thus, performing these projections 
will not provide meaningful information for the extinction risk of 
either of these species.
    The baseline for the overall risk assessment assumes that there has 
already been a significant decline in abundance in both species due to 
a reduction in carrying capacity and overfishing as indicated in 
various publications (Limburg and Waldman, 2009; Hall et al., 2012), as 
well as other threats. The estimated population growth rates reflect 
the impacts from the various threats to which the species are currently 
exposed. The SRT recommended that NEFSC use data from 1976 through the 
present to minimize the overfishing influence from distant water fleets 
that occurred in earlier years but has since been curtailed by 
fisheries management measures. The SRT recommended that the NEFSC also 
run a trajectory using a plus/minus 10-percent growth rate to test 
model sensitivity with respect to changes in the model variables. This 
approach has been used in analyses for other species (e.g., Atlantic 
croaker, Atlantic cod) and can serve as a means of showing 
sensitivities in the model to potential variables (e.g., population 
growth rate changes, climate change) (Hare and Able, 2007; Hare, NMFS 
Pers. comm., 2012). Following completion of the model results, we 
determined that the plus/minus 10-percent change in population growth 
rate would not provide additional information that would change the 
conclusions as to whether the populations are significantly increasing, 
stable or decreasing. Without the projections of the population growth 
rate into the foreseeable future, the plus/minus 10-percent would 
merely provide an additional set of bounds around the population growth 
rate estimate, and, therefore, we determined that running the model 
with the plus/minus 10-percent was not necessary.
    The population growth rates derived from the analysis help identify 
whether stability exists within the population. Mace et al. (2002) and 
Demaster et al. (2004) recognized that highly fecund, short generation 
time species like river herring may be able to withstand a 95 to 99 
percent decline in biomass. Both alewives and blueback herring may 
already be at or less than two percent of the historical baseline 
(e.g., Limburg and Waldman, 2009), though these estimates are based on 
commercial landings data, which are dependent upon management and are 
not a reliable estimate of biomass. However, recognizing historical 
declines for both species, the modeled population growth rates were 
used to gauge whether these stock complexes are stable, significantly 
increasing or decreasing. Relative abundance of a stock is considered 
to be significantly increasing or decreasing if the 95-percent 
confidence intervals of the population growth rate do not include zero. 
In contrast, if the 95-percent confidence intervals do contain zero, 
then the population is considered to be stable, as the increasing or 
decreasing trend in abundance is not statistically significant.
    The SRT determined and we agree that a stable or significantly 
increasing trajectory suggests that these species may be within the 
margins of being self-sustainable and thus, if all of the growth rates 
for the coast-wide distribution and the stock complexes are stable or 
significantly increasing, the species is at low risk of extinction (the 
risk categories were defined by adapting the categories described above 
for the QTA--Low risk--it is likely that the threats to the species' 
continued existence are not significant now and/or into the foreseeable 
future; Moderately Low--risk falls between low and moderate rankings; 
Moderate--it is likely that the threats are having some effect on the 
species continued existence now and/or into the foreseeable future; 
Moderately High--the risk falls between moderate and high; High--it is 
likely that the threats are significantly affecting the species' 
continued existence now and/or into the foreseeable future). If the 
coast wide population growth rate is stable or significantly increasing 
and one stock complex is significantly decreasing but all others are 
stable or significantly increasing, the species is at a moderate-low 
risk. A significantly decreasing population growth rate for several 
stock complexes would be an indicator that the current abundance may 
not be sustainable relative to current management measures and, 
therefore, may warrant further protections. Thus, if the population 
growth rates for two of the stock complexes are significantly 
decreasing but the coast-wide index is significantly increasing, the 
species is at moderate-high risk. If the growth rates for three or more 
of the stock complexes are significantly decreasing and/or the coast-
wide index is significantly decreasing, the species is at high risk.

Risk Scenarios

     Low risk
    [cir] Coast wide trajectory--Stable to significantly increasing
    [cir] Stock complex trajectories--All stable to significantly 
increasing
 Moderate-Low risk
    [cir] Coast wide trajectory--Stable to significantly increasing
    [cir] Stock complex trajectories--One significantly decreasing, all 
others stable to significantly increasing
 Moderate-High risk
    [cir] Coast wide trajectory--Stable to significantly increasing
    [cir] Stock complex trajectories--Two or more significantly 
decreasing
 High risk
    [cir] Coast wide trajectory--Significantly decreasing
    [cir] Stock complex trajectories--Three or more significantly 
decreasing

Trend Analysis Modeling

    The sections below include summaries/excerpts from the NEFSC Report 
to the SRT, ``Analysis of Trends in Alewife and Blueback Herring 
Relative Abundance,'' June 17, 2013, 42 pp. (NEFSC, 2013). For detailed 
information on the modeling conducted, please see the complete report 
which can be found at http://www.nero.noaa.gov/prot_res/CandidateSpeciesProgram/RiverHerringSOC.htm or see FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT section above for contacts.

[[Page 48988]]

Data Used in the Trend Analysis Modeling

Rangewide Data

    Relative abundance indices from multiple fishery-independent survey 
time series were considered as possible data inputs for the rangewide 
analysis. These time series included the NEFSC spring, fall, and winter 
bottom trawl surveys as well as the NEFSC shrimp survey. For alewife, 
two additional time series were available: Canada's DFO summer research 
vessel (RV) survey of the Scotian Shelf and Bay of Fundy (1970-
present), and DFO's Georges Bank RV survey (1987-present, conducted 
during February and March).
    For the NEFSC spring and fall bottom trawl surveys, inshore strata 
from 8 to 27 m depth and offshore strata from 27 to 366 m depth have 
been most consistently sampled by the RV Albatross IV and RV Delaware 
II since the fall of 1975 and spring of 1976. Prior to these time 
periods, either only a portion of the survey area was sampled or a 
different vessel and gear were used to sample the inshore strata 
(Azarovitz, 1981). Accordingly, seasonal alewife and blueback herring 
relative abundance indices were derived from these trawl surveys using 
both inshore and offshore strata for 1976-2012 in the spring and 1975-
2011 in the fall. Additional relative abundance indices were derived 
using only offshore strata for 1968-2012 in the spring and 1967-2011 in 
the fall (from 1963-1967 the fall survey did not extend south of Hudson 
Canyon). These time series were developed following the same 
methodology used in the ASMFC river herring stock assessment (ASMFC, 
2012).
    Through 2008, standard bottom trawl tows were conducted for 30 
minutes at 6.5 km/hour with the RV Albatross IV as the primary survey 
research vessel (Despres-Patanjo et al., 1988). However, vessel, door 
and net changes did occur during this time, resulting in the need for 
conversion factors to adjust survey catches for some species. 
Conversion factors were not available for net and door changes, but a 
vessel conversion factor for alewife was available to account for years 
where the RV Delaware II was used. A vessel conversion factor of 0.58 
was applied to alewife weight-per-tow indices from the RV Delaware II. 
Alewife number-per-tow indices did not require a conversion factor 
(Byrne and Forrester, 1991).
    In 2009, the survey changed primary research vessels from the RV 
Albatross IV to the RV Henry B. Bigelow. Due to the deeper draft of the 
RV Henry B. Bigelow, the two shallowest series of inshore strata (8-18 
m depth) are no longer sampled. Concurrent with the change in fishing 
vessel, substantial changes to the characteristics of the sampling 
protocol and trawl gear were made, including tow speed, net type and 
tow duration (NEFSC, 2007). Calibration experiments, comprising paired 
standardized tows of the two fishing vessels, were conducted to measure 
the relative catchability between the two vessel-gear combinations and 
develop calibration factors to convert Bigelow survey catches to RV 
Albatross equivalents (Miller et al., 2010). In the modeling, the NEFSC 
developed species-specific calibration coefficients which were 
estimated for both catch numbers and weights using the method of Miller 
et al. (2010) (Table 14). The calibration factors were combined across 
seasons due to low within-season sample sizes from the 2008 calibration 
studies (fewer than 30 tows with positive catches by one or both 
vessels).
[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN12AU13.021

    Bottom trawl catches of river herring tend to be higher during the 
daytime due to diel migration patterns (Loesch et al., 1982; Stone and 
Jessop, 1992). Accordingly, only daytime tows were used to compute 
relative abundance and biomass indices. In addition, the calibration 
factors used to convert RV Bigelow catches to RV Albatross equivalents 
were estimated using only catches from daytime tows. Daytime tows, 
defined as those tows between sunrise and sunset, were identified for 
each survey station based on sampling date, location, and solar zenith 
angle using the method of Jacobson et al. (2011). Although there is a 
clear general relationship between solar zenith and time of day, tows 
carried out at the same time but at different geographic locations may 
have substantially different irradiance levels that could influence 
survey catchability (NEFSC, 2011). Preliminary analyses (Lisa 
Hendrickson, NMFS, 2012--unpublished data) confirmed that river herring 
catches were generally greater during daylight hours compared to 
nighttime hours.
    In addition to the NEFSC spring and fall trawl surveys, the NEFSC 
winter and shrimp surveys were considered for inclusion in the 
analysis. For the winter survey (February), the sampling area extended 
from Cape Hatteras, NC, through the southern flank of Georges Bank, but 
did not include the remaining portion of Georges Bank or the Gulf of 
Maine. With the arrival of the RV Bigelow in late 2007, the NEFSC 
winter survey was merged with the NEFSC spring survey and discontinued. 
Alewife and blueback herring indices of relative abundance were 
developed for the winter survey from 1992-2007 using daytime tows from 
all sampled inshore and offshore strata. The shrimp survey is conducted 
during the summer (July/August) in the western Gulf of Maine during 
daylight hours. Relative abundance indices were derived for alewife and 
blueback herring from 1983-2011 using all strata that were consistently 
sampled across the survey time series in the NEFSC winter and shrimp 
surveys.
    Stratified mean indices of relative abundance of alewife from 
Canada's summer RV survey and Georges Bank RV survey were provided by 
Heath

[[Page 48989]]

Stone of Canada's DFO. In these surveys, alewife is the predominant 
species captured; however, some blueback herring are likely included in 
the alewife indices because catches are not always separated by river 
herring species (Heath Stone, DFO Pers. comm., 2012). Furthermore, some 
Georges Bank strata were not sampled in all years of the survey due to 
inclement weather and vessel mechanical problems (Stone and Gross, 
2012).
    Due to the restricted spatial coverage of the winter, shrimp and 
Canadian Georges Bank surveys, these surveys were not used in the final 
rangewide analyses. Accordingly, relative abundance (number-per-tow) 
from the NEFSC spring and fall surveys was used in the rangewide models 
for blueback herring, and number-per-tow from the NEFSC spring survey, 
NEFSC fall survey, and the Canadian summer survey were used in the 
rangewide models for alewife.
    Data from 1976 through the present were incorporated into the trend 
analysis. This time series permitted the inclusion of the spring and 
fall surveys' inshore strata. In addition, with this time series, the 
required assumption that the population growth rate will remain the 
same was reasonable. Prior to 1976, fishing intensity was much greater 
due to the presence of distant water fleets on the East Coast of the 
United States.
    Years with zero catches were treated as missing data. For alewife, 
there were no years with zero catches in the spring, fall and Scotian 
shelf surveys. Zero catches of blueback herring occurred in the fall 
survey in 1988, 1990, 1992 and 1998.

Stock-Specific Data

    Stock-specific time series of alewife and blueback herring relative 
abundance were obtained from the ASMFC and Canada's DFO. Available time 
series varied among stocks and included run counts, as well as young-
of-year (YOY), juvenile and adult surveys that occurred solely within 
the bays or sounds of the stock of interest (for alewife see Table 15 
in the NEFSC's ``Analysis of Trends in Alewife and Blueback Herring 
Relative Abundance,'' and for blueback herring, see Table 16). All 
available datasets were included in the stock-specific analyses, with 
the exception of run counts from the St. Croix and Union Rivers. These 
datasets were excluded due to the artificial impacts of management 
activities on run sizes. The closure of the Woodland Dam and Great 
Falls fishways in the St. Croix River prevented the upstream passage of 
alewives to spawning habitat. In contrast, fluctuations in Union River 
run counts were likely impacted by lifting and stocking activities used 
to maintain a fishery above the Ellsworth Dam. In the southern Gulf of 
St. Lawrence trawl survey, all river herring were considered to be 
alewife because survey catches were not separated by river herring 
species (Luc Savoie DFO, Pers. comm., 2012). No blueback herring 
abundance indices were available for the Canadian stock. Select strata 
were not used to estimate stock-specific indices from the NEFSC trawl 
surveys because mixing occurs on the continental shelf. Accordingly, 
any NEFSC trawl survey indices, even estimated using only particular 
strata, would likely include individuals from more than one stock.
    Each available dataset in the stock-specific analyses represented a 
particular age or stage (spawners, young-of-year, etc.) of fish. 
Consequently, each time series was transformed using a running sum over 
4 years. The selection of 4 years for the running sum was based on the 
generation time of river herring. For age- and stage-specific data, a 
running sum transformation is recommended to obtain a time series that 
more closely approximates the total population (Holmes, 2001). In order 
to compute the running sums for each dataset, missing data were imputed 
by computing the means of immediately adjacent years. For both species 
4 years were imputed for the Monument River, and 1 year was imputed for 
the DC seine survey. For alewife, 1 year was also imputed for the 
Mattapoisett River, Nemasket River, and the southern Gulf of St. 
Lawrence trawl survey. For blueback herring, 1 year was also imputed 
for the Long Island Sound (LIS) trawl survey and Santee-Cooper catch-
per-unit-effort (CPUE).
    If possible data from 1976 through the present were incorporated 
into each stock-specific model, with the first running sum 
incorporating data from 1976 through 1979. However, for some stocks, 
observation time series began after 1976. In these cases, the first 
modeled year coincided with the first running sum of the earliest 
survey.

MARRS Model Description

    Multivariate Autoregressive State-Space models (MARSS) were 
developed using the MARSS package in R (Holmes et al., 2012a). This 
package fits linear MARSS models to time series data using a maximum 
likelihood framework based on the Kalman smoother and an Expectation 
Maximization algorithm (Holmes et al., 2012b).
    Each MARSS model is comprised of a process model and an observation 
model (Holmes and Ward, 2010; Holmes et al., 2012b). The model is 
described in detail in the NEFSC (2013) final report to the SRT (posted 
on the Northeast Regional Office's Web site--http://www.nero.noaa.gov/prot_res/CandidateSpeciesProgram/RiverHerringSOC.htm). Population 
projections and model analysis.
    For each stock complex, the estimated population growth rate and 
associated 95 percent confidence intervals were used to classify 
whether the stock's relative abundance was stable, significantly 
increasing or decreasing. As noted previously, relative abundance of a 
stock was considered to be significantly increasing or decreasing if 
the 95 percent confidence intervals of the population growth rate did 
not include zero. In contrast, if the 95 percent confidence intervals 
included zero, the population was considered to be stable because the 
increasing or decreasing trend in abundance was not significant.

Model Results

Rangewide Analyses

    For the rangewide analysis, as shown in Table 15 below, the 
preferred model run for alewife indicates that the 95-percent 
confidence intervals spanning the estimated population growth rate do 
not include 0 and are statistically significantly increasing. For 
blueback herring rangewide, however, the 95-percent confidence 
intervals do include 0, and thus, it is not possible to state that the 
trend rangewide for this species is increasing. We, therefore, conclude 
based on our criteria described above that blueback herring rangewide 
are stable.

[[Page 48990]]

[GRAPHIC] [TIFF OMITTED] TN12AU13.022

Stock-Specific Analyses

    As shown in Table 16 below, the 95-percent confidence intervals 
spanning the estimated population growth rate for the Canadian stock 
complex do not include 0 and are statistically significantly 
increasing. For the other three stock complexes, however, the 
confidence intervals do include 0, and thus, the Northern New England, 
Southern New England and mid-Atlantic alewife stock complexes are 
stable.
    As Canada does not separate alewife and blueback herring in their 
surveys (e.g., they indicate that all fish are alewife), we were unable 
to obtain data from Canada specifically for blueback herring. For three 
of the remaining four stock complexes, the 95-percent confidence 
intervals spanning the estimated population growth rate do include 0 
and thus, the trend for these stock complexes is stable. For the mid-
Atlantic stock complex, the population growth rate and both 95-percent 
confidence intervals are all statistically significantly decreasing. 
Thus, we conclude that this stock complex is significantly decreasing.
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[[Page 48992]]


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Model Assumptions and Limitations

    The available data for each analysis varied considerably among 
species and stocks. Some stocks such as Southern New England blueback 
herring had only one available data set; however, other stocks such as 
Southern New England alewife and mid-Atlantic blueback herring had 
eight or more available time series. Within each analysis, all input 
time series must be weighted equally, regardless of the variability in 
the dataset. Furthermore, only the annual point estimates of relative 
abundance are inputs to the model; associated standard errors for the 
time series are not inputted.
    However, some observation time series may be more representative of 
the stock of interest than other time series. For example, for Northern 
New England alewife, available datasets included run counts from five 
rivers and Maine's juvenile alosine seine survey. Each time series of 
run counts represents the spawning population in one particular river, 
whereas the juvenile seine survey samples six Maine rivers including 
Merrymeeting Bay (ASMFC, 2012). Accordingly, it is possible that the 
juvenile seine survey provides a better representation of Northern New 
England alewife than the run counts from any particular river because 
the seine survey samples multiple populations. Likewise, for Southern 
New England alewife, available datasets included the Long Island Sound 
(LIS) trawl survey, New York juvenile seine survey, and run counts from 
six rivers. The LIS trawl survey samples Long Island Sound from New 
London to Greenwich Connecticut with stations in both Connecticut and 
New York state waters, including the mouths of several rivers including 
the Thames, Connecticut, Housatonic, East and Quinnipiac (CTDEP, 2011; 
ASMFC, 2012). The NY juvenile seine survey samples the Hudson River 
estuary (ASMFC, 2012), and run counts are specific to particular 
rivers. As a consequence, the LIS trawl survey may be more 
representative of the Southern New England alewife stock because it 
samples not only a greater proportion of the stock, but also samples 
LIS where mixing of river-specific populations likely occurs.
    Several sources of uncertainty are described in detail in the 
modeling report. It is important to understand and document these 
sources of uncertainty. However, even with several assumptions and 
these sources of uncertainty, we are confident that the model results 
are useful in determining the population growth rates both coast-wide 
and for the individual stock complexes, and thus, for providing 
information to be used in assessing the risk to these species and stock 
complexes.

Extinction Risk Conclusion

    In performing our analysis of the risk of extinction to the 
species, we considered the current status and trends and the threats as 
they are impacting the species at this time. Currently, neither species 
is experiencing high rates of decline coast-wide as evidenced by the 
rangewide trends (significantly increasing for alewife and stable for 
blueback herring). Thus, using the extinction risk tiers identified by 
the SRT, we have concluded the following:
    Alewife--
     Tier A: There is sufficient information available to 
conclude that there are at least three contiguous populations that are 
stable to significantly increasing.
     Tier B: The species is at ``Low risk'' as the coast-wide 
trajectory is significantly increasing and all of the stock complexes 
are stable or significantly increasing.
    Blueback herring--
     Tier A: There is insufficient information available to 
make a conclusion under Tier A as we were unable to obtain data from 
Canada to determine the population growth rate for rivers in Canada. 
Thus, we were only able to obtain information for four of the five 
stock complexes identified for the species.
     Tier B: The species is at ``Moderate-low risk ``as the 
coast-wide trajectory is stable and three of the four stock complexes 
are stable. The estimated population growth rate of the mid-Atlantic 
stock complex is significantly decreasing based on the available 
information. However, the relative abundance of the species throughout 
its range (as demonstrated through the coast-wide population growth 
rate) is stable, and thus, the SRT concluded that the mid-Atlantic 
stock complex does not constitute a significant portion of the species 
range. We concur with this conclusion. In other words, the data 
indicate that the mid-Atlantic stock complex does not contribute so 
much to the species that, without it, the entire species would be in 
danger of extinction.
    Many conservation efforts are underway that may lessen the impact 
of some of these threats into the foreseeable future. One of the 
significant threats identified for both species is bycatch in Federal 
fisheries, such as the Atlantic herring and mackerel fisheries. The New 
England and Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Councils have recommended 
management measures under the MSA that are expected to decrease the 
risk from this particular threat. Under both the Atlantic Herring 
Fishery Management Plan and the Mackerel/Squid/Butterfish Fishery 
Management Plan, the Councils have recommended a suite of reporting, 
vessel operation, river herring catch cap provisions, and observer 
provisions that would improve information on the amount and extent of 
river herring catch in the Atlantic herring and mackerel fisheries. 
NMFS has partially approved the measures as recommended by the New 
England Council and will be implementing the measures in September or 
October 2013. Another threat that has been identified for both species 
is loss of habitat or loss of access to spawning habitats. We have been 
working to restore access to spawning habitats for river herring and 
other diadromous fish species through habitat restoration projects. 
While several threats may lessen in the future, given the extensive 
decline from historical levels, neither species is thought to be 
capable of withstanding continued high rates of decline.

Research Needs

    As noted above, there is insufficient information available on 
river herring in many areas. Research needs were recently identified in 
the ASMFC River Herring Stock Assessment Report (ASMFC, 2012); NMFS 
Stock Structure, Climate Change and Extinction Risk Workshop/Working 
Group Reports (NMFSa, 2012; NMFSb, 2012; NMFSc, 2012) and associated 
peer reviews; and New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management 
Council documents (NEFMC, 2012; MAFMC, 2012). We have identified below 
some of the most critical and immediate research needs to conserve 
river herring taking the recently identified needs into consideration, 
as well as information from this determination. However, these are 
subject to refinement as a coordinated and prioritized coast-wide 
approach to continue to fill in data gaps and conserve river herring 
and their habitat is developed (see ``Listing Determination'' below).
     Gather additional information on life history for all 
stages and habitat areas using consistent and comprehensive coast-wide 
protocols (i.e., within and between the United States and Canada). This 
includes information on movements such as straying rates and migrations 
at sea. Improve methods to develop biological benchmarks used in 
assessment modeling.

[[Page 48993]]

     Continue genetic analyses to assess genetic diversity, 
determine population stock structure along the coast (U.S. and Canada) 
and determination of river origin of incidental catch in non-targeted 
ocean fisheries. Also, obtain information on hybridization and 
understand the effects of stocking on genetic diversity.
     Further assess human impacts on river herring (e.g., 
quantifying bycatch through expanded observer and port sampling 
coverage to quantify fishing impact in the ocean environment and 
improve reporting of commercial and recreational harvest by waterbody 
and gear, ocean acidification)
     Continue developing models to predict the potential 
impacts of climate change on river herring. This includes, as needed to 
support these efforts, environmental tolerances and thresholds (e.g., 
temperature) for all life stages in various habitats.
     Develop and implement monitoring protocols and analyses to 
determine river herring population responses and targets for rivers 
undergoing restoration (e.g., dam removals, fishways, supplemental 
stocking). Also, estimate spawning habitat by watershed (with and 
without dams).
     Assess the frequency and occurrence of hybridization 
between alewife and blueback herring and possible conditions that 
contribute to its occurrence (e.g., occurs naturally or in response to 
climate change, dams, or other anthropogenic factors).
     Continue investigating predator prey relationships.

Listing Determination

    The ESA defines an endangered species as any species in danger of 
extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and a 
threatened species as any species likely to become an endangered 
species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant 
portion of its range. Section 4(b)(1) of the ESA requires that the 
listing determination be based solely on the best scientific and 
commercial data available, after conducting a review of the status of 
the species and after taking into account those efforts, if any, that 
are being made to protect such species.
    We have considered the available information on the abundance of 
alewife and blueback herring, and whether any one or a combination of 
the five ESA factors significantly affect the long-term persistence of 
these species now or into the foreseeable future. We have reviewed the 
information received following the positive 90-day finding on the 
petition, the reports from the stock structure, extinction risk 
analysis, and climate change workshops/working groups, the population 
growth rates from the trends in relative abundance estimates and 
qualitative threats assessment, the Center for Independent Experts peer 
reviewers' comments, other qualified peer reviewer submissions, and 
consulted with scientists, fishermen, fishery resource managers, and 
Native American Tribes familiar with river herring and related research 
areas, and all other information encompassing the best available 
information on river herring. Based on the best available information, 
the SRT concluded that alewife are at a low risk of extinction from the 
threats identified in the QTA (e.g., dams and other barriers to 
migration, incidental catch, climate change, dredging, water quality, 
water withdrawal/outfall, predation, and existing regulation), and 
blueback herring are at a moderate-low risk of extinction from similar 
threats identified and discussed in the QTA discussion above. We concur 
with this conclusion, and we have determined that as a result of the 
extinction risk analysis for both species, these two species are not in 
danger of extinction or likely to become so in the foreseeable future. 
Therefore, listing alewife and blueback herring as either endangered or 
threatened throughout all of their ranges is not warranted at this 
time.

Significant Portion of the Range Evaluation

    Under the ESA and our implementing regulations, a species warrants 
listing if it is threatened or endangered throughout all or a 
significant portion of its range. In our analysis for this listing 
determination, we initially evaluated the status of and threats to the 
alewife and blueback herring throughout the entire range of both 
species. As stated previously, we have concluded that there was not 
sufficient evidence to suggest that the genetically distinct stock 
complexes of alewife or blueback constitute DPSs. We also then assessed 
the status of each of the individual stock complexes in order to 
determine whether either species is threatened or endangered in a 
significant portion of its range.
    As noted above in the QTA section, the SRT determined that the 
threats to both species are similar and the threats to each of the 
individual stock complexes are similar with some slight variation based 
on geography. Water quality, water withdrawal/outfall, predation, 
climate change and climate variability were generally seen as greater 
threats to both species in the southern portion of their ranges than in 
the northern portion of their ranges. In light of the potential 
differences in the magnitude of the threats to specific areas or 
populations, we next evaluated whether alewife or blueback herring 
might be threatened or endangered in any significant portion of its 
range. In accordance with our draft policy on ``significant portion of 
its range,'' our first step in this evaluation was to review the entire 
supporting record for this listing determination to ``identify any 
portions of the range[s] of the species that warrant further 
consideration'' (76 FR 77002; December 9, 2011). Therefore, we 
evaluated whether there is substantial information suggesting that the 
hypothetical loss of any of the individual stock complexes for either 
species (e.g., portions of the species' ranges) would reasonably be 
expected to increase the demographic risks to the point that the 
species would then be in danger of extinction, (i.e., whether any of 
the stock complexes within either species' range should be considered 
``significant''). As noted in the extinction risk analysis section, all 
of the alewife stock complexes as well as the coastwide trend are 
either stable or increasing. For blueback herring, 3 of the stock 
complexes and the coastwide trend are all stable, but the mid-Atlantic 
stock complex is decreasing. The SRT determined that the mid-Atlantic 
stock complex is not significant to the species, given that even though 
it is decreasing, the overall coastwide trend is stable. Thus, the loss 
of this stock complex would not place the entire species at risk of 
extinction. We concur with this conclusion. Because the portion of the 
blueback herring stock complex residing in the mid-Atlantic is not so 
significant that its hypothetical loss would render the species 
endangered, we conclude that the mid-Atlantic stock complex does not 
constitute a significant portion of the blueback herring's range. 
Consequently, we need not address the question of whether the portion 
of the species occupying this portion of the range of blueback herring 
is threatened or endangered.

Conclusion

    Our review of the information pertaining to the five ESA section 
4(a)(1) factors does not support the assertion that there are threats 
acting on either alewife or blueback herring or their habitat that have 
rendered either species to be in danger of extinction or likely to 
become so in the foreseeable future, throughout all or a significant 
portion of its range. Therefore, listing alewife or blueback herring as 
threatened or endangered under the ESA is not warranted at this time.

[[Page 48994]]

    While neither species is currently endangered or threatened, both 
species are at low abundance compared to historical levels, and 
monitoring both species is warranted. We agree with the SRT that there 
are significant data deficiencies for both species, and there is 
uncertainty associated with available data. There are many ongoing 
restoration and conservation efforts and new management measures that 
are being initiated/considered that are expected to benefit the 
species; however, it is not possible at this time to quantify the 
positive benefit from these efforts. Given the uncertainties and data 
deficiencies for both species, we commit to revisiting both species in 
3 to 5 years. We have determined that this is an appropriate timeframe 
for considering this information in the future as a 3- to 5-year 
timeframe equates to approximately one generation time for each 
species, and it is therefore unlikely that a detrimental impact to 
either species could occur within this period. Additionally, it allows 
for time to complete ongoing scientific studies (e.g., genetic 
analyses, ocean migration patterns, climate change impacts) and for the 
results to be fully considered. Also, it allows for the assessment of 
data to determine whether the preliminary reports of increased river 
counts in many areas along the coast in the last 2 years represent 
sustained trends. During this 3- to 5-year period, we intend to 
coordinate with ASMFC on a strategy to develop a long-term and dynamic 
conservation plan (e.g., priority activities and areas) for river 
herring considering the full range of both species and with the goal of 
addressing many of the high priority data gaps for river herring. We 
welcome input and involvement from the public. Any information that 
could help this effort should be sent to us (see ADDRESSES section 
above).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this rulemaking can be 
found on our Web site at http://www.nero.noaa.gov/prot_res/CandidateSpeciesProgram/RiverHerringSOC.htm and is available upon 
request from the NMFS office in Gloucester, MA (see ADDRESSES).

    Authority: The authority for this action is the Endangered 
Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: August 6, 2013.
Alan D. Risenhoover,
Director, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, performing the functions and 
duties of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs 
National Marine Fisheries Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-19380 Filed 8-9-13; 8:45 am]
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