A fish tale

Published 2:16 pm Saturday, July 21, 2007

By Staff
While it’s comforting to know that two fish hatcheries are part of a program to increase the shad population in the Roanoke River, it would be even more comforting to see the herring population in all of eastern North Carolina’s rivers increased significantly.
After all, the catching and processing of herring — let’s not forget eating them, too — once was a big industry in the eastern part of the state. Returning the herring population to the numbers it had even 20 years ago would be a step in the right direction. Ideally, having the Chowan, Roanoke and other rivers in eastern North Carolina teeming with herring would be the thing to do.
The current moratorium on catching of herring won’t be enough to protect the herring population. A program similar to the shad-restoration program is needed.
Just think how nice it would be to be able to go to the Cypress Grill in Jamesville when the herring are running and fill up on herring fried crisp to the bone. As each year passes without a herring-restoration program, those opportunities are fewer and fewer.
It’s fish or cut bait time when it comes to saving the herring fishery and increasing the herring population to levels of 30 or more years ago.
Last year, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission enacted a moratorium on the taking and possessing of adult river herring.
The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is working on a river herring management plan. That plan “will detail the steps necessary to recover North Carolina’s river herring stocks,” that release states.
The Division of Marine Fisheries isn’t alone in its pursuit of such a plan. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service are helping in that effort.
They can’t restore the herring population with a plan alone.
It will take efforts by many people, if not everyone, in eastern North Carolina and elsewhere to increase the number of river herring.
We could not agree more or say it better.
There are some groups and people who oppose the moratorium. Would they have the herring population wiped out by overfishing? Commercial fishermen want to catch herring. But what happens when there are no more herring to catch in future years? Let’s hope their view isn’t this: “Let me catch them, but wait until after I hang up my fishing gear before action is taken to protect the herring.”
The debate over the herring moratorium no doubt will continue, as will the decline in the herring population unless something is done to reverse that decline.
It would be nice to allow herring fishermen to go out and catch as many herring as possible during the next season. It would be even better to increase the herring population to the point where herring could be caught for years to come.