We examined long-term data sets from large rivers in the northern, central, and southern parts of the ranges of anadromous river herring (alewife Alosa pseudoharengus and blueback herring A. aestivalis) to assess the current status of these species and for evidence of fishery-induced effects on their demographic characteristics. Both species show signs of overexploitation in all rivers examined, such as reductions in mean age, decreases in percentage of returning spawners, and decreases in abundance. These two species should be managed separately since exploitation within a given river is often biased toward one or the other and there are enough differences in their biology so that a single management option will affect them differently. These species are not distinguished in commercial catches, which hinders understanding of their exploitation. ?? 2003 by the American Fisheries Society.