Download Full Text (821 KB)

Document Type

Book Chapter


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


Jennifer Nelson, Julian J. Dodson, Kevin Friedland, Troy R. Hamon, Jack Musick, Eric Verspoor

Publication Date


Book Title

Reconciling Fisheries with Conservation: Proceedings of the Fourth World Fisheries Congress


American Fisheries Society




American Fisheries Society Symposium


Moratoria on fishing directly impact fishers, distributors and marketers of product and can have serious socio-economic implications. Moratoria can impact communities but usually populations closely linked to the banned activity. In an unprecedented example, a moratorium on fishing in Virginia has directly impacted a nonfishing citizenry by thwarting plans for a public utility. In May 2003, a panel empowered to regulate marine resources denied permission to withdraw raw water from a pristine freshwater river, the Mattaponi. The controversial action spoiled a multi-million dollar plan to establish the King William Reservoir, a water source considered essential to future growth and development in the region. The facility was designed to serve a projected 600,000 people in 2040 but the Mattaponi Indians, environmentalists, local citizens and commercial fishers opposed the plan. A central issue was conservation of American shad Alosa sapidissima, an anadromous clupeid native to the U.S. east coast. An inriver moratorium on fishing for American shad imposed in 1994 remains in effect. In the reservoir debate, scientists advised the panel that the project would withdraw water in the center of the larval nursery area for this species and in a river that accounted for the highest statewide production of juveniles. Scientists recommended relocating the intake since losses of larvae to withdrawal could be counter to restoration goals of the moratorium. Using quantitative models, municipal authorities argued that only six American shad would be lost annually to impingement or entrainment. The panel rejected this argument and proposals to mitigate losses.



Six Fish and 600,000 Thirsty Folks—A Fishing Moratorium on American Shad Thwarts a Controversial Municipal Reservoir Project in Virginia, USA