Hi Folks, The meeting and presentation was typically redundant and long, as they brought folks up to speed. In their on big screen presentation, I noticed they had many diagrams and graphs showing monthly catches from Mid Water Trawler's. My thinking is they are looking ahead to allow monthly based options as a fall back position instead of year round closures.
Comments from Mid Water Trawl guys were that they couldn’t live with year round closure of area 1A or an Alternative of the 6 mile closure of areas 1A, 2 and 3. (east of Cape) There were 7 Alternatives in all, ranging from "no action" to 6, 12, 25 and then 50 mile buffer zones of no mid water trawling. Other options were seasonal closures from June 1 to September 30, or year round closures. Alternative 7 had minute blocks of lat long areas closed to mid water vessels to the southeast of Chatham and Cape, yet I noticed that these blocks did NOT include the Great South Channel (where they fish) and where the herring congregates in September October and November and where we fish for bluefin.
The MWT guys were fine with the "no action" Alternative ! One guy at the mike claimed that there was no science for the idea of local forage depletion. He called it “bullshit”. When I was at the microphone, I asked them to put up one of their figures on the big screen that clearly showed a 75-80% decline in documented commercial bluefin tuna landings from Area 3 which is the Great South Channel area (BB buoy and South) from 2002 to 2010 when the mid water trawlers started fishing there. This area has NEVER recovered to date due to MWT working there in the fall. Proving that stocks do vacate an area when the bait forage has been removed. I then spoke up for Alts 6 and 7, which called for a 50 mile buffer zone closure year round, yet I also offered that 50 miles may not be needed in other areas except SE Cape Cod. Another option - Alt 7 was for the lat long minute closures but needs to be expanded further east to protect the Great South Channel areas. As currently offered, Alternative 7 DOES NOT protect the important Great South Channel.
MA Lobstermen’s Association were there complaining they need these boats for their summer bait supply. My thinking is that if these boats are pushed well offshore, the herring bait supply would grow to the previous abundance where purse and gillnet boats could again supply their bait. The MWT fleet can go get herring outside the buffer zones too.
Many environmental groups were there, seemingly very professional with their laptops, grey dresses, scarves, winter boots, and briefcases, all speaking for the protection of the environment as a whole.
Lastly, the options for seasonal closures promoted by the MB Tooley member, all ended on September 30. I went back to the mike and made the comment that most of our Chatham area BFT quota (and many other areas as well) is caught in the month of October, so to protect against further user conflict the closures should be extended to at least October 30. ?
Now all this goes back to council for more pondering, posturing, reevaluating etc. I first went to DC on this issue over 15 years ago. Unfortunately, there still is no 100 % observer coverage, and MWT boats still fishing where conflicts with other user groups are the norm.
Bruce & Marilyn S