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River Herring and Tautog Regulation Changes

February 1, 2012
Updated February 2, 2012
Updated July 10, 2012
Updated May 3, 2013

The NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife is informing recreational saltwater anglers and commercial fishermen of recent regulatory changes for river herring and tautog fisheries. The New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council approved these measures at their January 5, 2012, meeting and DEP Commissioner Martin recently signed these changes into effect. These actions were taken to comply with Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) management plans for river herring and tautog.

Effective immediately, no person shall take, possess, land, purchase, sell or offer for sale any river herring (alewife and blueback) in the marine waters of the State. Only commercial vessels fishing exclusively in Federal waters while operating 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.

These regulations were put in place due to concerns about the significant coastwide decline of river herring stocks. The exact cause for these coastwide declines remains uncertain, but numerous factors such as loss of spawning habitat, impediments to fish passage (i.e. dams), water quality degradation and fishing all likely played a role. Amendment 2 of the ASMFC fishery management plan for river herring prohibits both the recreational and commercial harvest of river herring in the waters of states that do not have an ASMFC- approved river herring sustainable management plan. New Jersey does not have an approved plan since the available information on river herring stocks is not sufficient to definitively prove the State's river herring stocks are sustainable. Other states along the East Coast - Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts and Rhode Island - have closed their river herring fisheries as well.

Amendment 2 of the ASMFC fishery management plan for river herring applies to the state’s entire population of migratory herring in both marine and fresh waters. Currently, the river herring fishery closure is in place for marine waters only, but compliance with the ASMFC plan also requires closure of the state’s fishery for freshwater migratory herring. The freshwater fishery closure, which will not include landlocked herring populations, is expected to be in place by mid-February. The Division will issue a public notification when the freshwater closure is approved.

Also effective immediately, the new minimum size limit for tautog (blackfish) is now 15 inches, both commercially and recreationally. The new recreational seasons and possession limits for tautog are as follows:

Jan. 1 - Feb. 28 4 fish 15"
Mar. 1 - Mar. 31 CLOSED
Apr. 1 - Apr. 30 4 15"
May 1 - July 16 CLOSED
July 17 - Nov. 15 1 15"
Nov. 16 - Dec. 31 6 15"

Jan 1 – Jan 15 15"
Jan 16 – June 21 CLOSED
June 11 - June 30 15"
July 1 – Nov 8 CLOSED
Nov 9 – Dec 31 15"

The coastwide tautog resource is currently overfished and the spawning stock biomass – the weight of mature females in the stock – has remained at low levels despite previous efforts to help rebuild the coastwide resource. ASMFC’s Addendum VI to the tautog fishery management plan required a 53 percent reduction in coastwide harvest to promote the rebuilding of the coastwide tautog resource. The new tautog regulation changes were necessary to comply with the ASMFC-required harvest reduction.

Please visit the Regulations page or consult the Marine Digest for any future regulation changes.

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Department of Environmental Protection
P.O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: May 3, 2013