Hi Folks, Perhaps some of you have seen or heard of a video or a photo circulating on the internet, of dead striped bass floating on the waters to the southeast of Chatham, MA. The video really doesn’t give you an idea of how many bass area actually dead and dying on the surface, because they are so far apart. These fish are scattered over a mile long area ! The week this video was shot there were two pair trawling mid water boats fishing for herring 6 miles southeast of the Regal Sword !
Striped Bass are much of the time out in deep water over 200 feet deep. Since most folks fish stripers inshore, this is relatively unknown fact. We will very frequently catch large 20-30 pound bass on the bottom in 150-350 of water when giant tuna fishing. Recently, many striped bass have been caught by guys trolling for bluefin tuna 10 to 20 miles from shore. In fall, when the natural food source of sea herring move along our coastlines, the following stripers are caught in the midwater and bottom dragging trawl nets as “bycatch”. Since net caught striped bass are not allowed to be sold, they are shoveled or pitchforked back into the sea, dead or dying and unused and wasted. Bottom dragging boats for groundfish will also catch and discard these stripers when working in certain areas where they are migrating. One area where these bass are caught EVERY year is known as the Great South Channel. This area ranges from a mile or two northwest of the Regal Sword about 10 miles south to the BB buoy. Basically, it is a natural funnel that concentrates migrating fish populations. Cod, haddock, sea herring, striped bass, bluefin tuna and many other species can be found in this area and are accidentally caught by boats targeting one of the other varieties.
Like many of you, I am concerned about this wasteful practice, and would like to see our fishery managers address this. So what is the answer ? The anti commercial group Stripers Forever would like to see this bycatch applied to the Massachusetts annual commercial rod and reel quota. That really doesn’t address how to stop or limit the bycatch though. Some of the posters on the sportfishing blogs will go into detail about how to bleed the air out of the bloated bladders of the stripers, so they can swim back down to the bottom. That may work for a single fish or two, but I doubt the crew of a dragger or midwater trawl boat is going to deal with that method for a few hundred bass on the deck at once.
In my opinion, there is only one way to stop this practice. We absolutely need 100 % observer coverage on these mid water trawl vessels. The bycatch of stripers and haddock is incredible. These boats are currently not required to have observers, unlike the rest of the fishing boats. Due to big lobbying effort by the herring processors, the MA division of Marine Fisheries has advocated for voluntary self regulation as a solution to mid water herring fishery’s related problems. Please take the time to get involved and write, call or email MA DMF, Governor Patrick and your state representatives and ask them to hold the herring industry accountable with mandatory 100 % observer coverage on these vessels. We do need help, and for now the target should be Mass DMF and the politicians above it.
I suggest strongly worded emails to Paul Diodati, copied to his bosses and their bosses...demanding that DMF take immediate action to secure 100% coverage in the fishery and support a bycatch cap on stripers and kick them out of the channel in the fall.
If you're tired of him or feel like you need just one target, feel free to go over his head and straight to the Secretary or Governor complaining that he has ignored you for too long and is not doing his job.
Here are the email addresses, in ascending order:
Mass DMF Director Paul Diodati 617 626-1530 email@example.com Mass Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin 617 626-1500 Mary.Griffin@state.ma.us
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles firstname.lastname@example.org 617.626.1181
Lt. Governor Tim Murray 888-870-7770 http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=gov3utilities&sid=Agov3&U=Agov3_contact_us (form-based email. Just paste in your pre-typed message)
Governor Deval Patrick 888-870-7770 http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=gov3utilities&sid=Agov3&U=Agov3_contact_us (form-based email. Just paste in your pre-typed message)