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Despite millions spent, Atlantic shad are still on the brink

The American shad’s Atlantic population remains at a historic low, despite long-standing commercial fishing bans in several states and millions of dollars invested in restoring its spawning habitat in rivers and creeks.

That sober news comes from the most comprehensive survey yet of the species’ status on the East Coast and the first of any kind in 13 years. The sprawling assessment by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission designates the shad population as “depleted” from Maine to Florida.

“There should be a lot more shad than there are out there,” said Michael Bailey, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientist and one of the assessment’s authors.

In the Chesapeake Bay region, the study suggests that the rate of death among adult shad—a key measure of a population’s health—is high enough in the Potomac River to declare the population “unsustainable,” but not so in Virginia’s Rappahannock and York rivers.

Once one of the largest commercial fisheries along the coas...

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