Why it's happening remains a mystery. But throughout the East Coast region, the census of herring species is rapidly diminishing according to the Deaprtemnt of Environmental Management.
Yesterday, emergency regulations were put into place banning the taking and possession of river herring, including both alewives and blueback herring, in all of Rhode Island's marine and fresh waters. The announcement came from the DEM in advance of this year's herring runs.
"It was long overdue," said Stephen P. Insana, President of the Buckeye Brook Coalition, an organization whose volunteers help monitor the herring species that spawn in both Buckeye and Hardig Brooks in Warwick.
Officials of both the state and federal government, Insana explained, are trying to determine why the numbers of herring have declined so rapidly in recent years. But he noted that commercial fishing only contributed to the problem.
"We're doing what we can to take the proper precautions to stop the collapse of the herring runs in Rhode Island," said Insana, who remembers years when hundreds of thousands of the fish would be counted each season. Now, he said, those figures are down to a mere fraction.
DEM spokeswoman Gail Mastrati said the ban was the result of a public hearing on the issue held March 13 where support for the emergency regulation received "overwhelming" support.
The ban, according to a press release from DEM, includes retention of herring taken before the regulations became effective.
DEM officials said the regulations are in "response to a precipitous drop in the size of the annual spring herring runs over the past few years and align Rhode Island with Massachusetts and Connecticut, where statewide bans are already in effect," according to the news release.