Herring is a hugely important forage species to the Cape Cod and Islands fisheries. In addition, whales, pinnipeds and bird life all depend upon the sea herring as an important link on the food chain. Over the last 20 years or more, huge mid water trawl vessels of over 100 feet in length have been increasingly vacuuming up the herring resource just off our shorelines. Chatham tuna fishermen once were able to travel to an area known as the Great South Channel to catch their share on the New England Bluefin quota. In the early 2000’s the mid water boats started fishing there, and now the tuna are there no more. Fishers up north in the Gulf of Maine tell us that when the mid water guys move in, its over for the tuna fishing. Its the same for striped bass, haddock, and cod, as well as the dolphins, whales and all of the other marine life that are dependent upon the mighty herring. I will attach a few links so you readers can get an idea of the discussions that have happened at a snail’s pace in the last 20 years or so. I was recently at a meeting with a herring purse seiner from Maine, that was part of a Washington DC trip he and I made with the Hook Fisherman’s Association on this issue over 20 years ago. Keep in mind a purse seiner is a much more sustainable and preferred method of catching herring than mid water trawling, in that when the net is put around the school, the school splits apart and dissipates, so the entire school is not captured. The biggest damage being done to the sea herring today is the fact these trawlers are fishing on spawning herring. We must increase protections to these very valuable forage species before its too late.
Here is a link to the general NEFMC calendar as it applies to the Herring and the “localized depletion” topics.
This link here lays out many diagrams and maps of the control areas, the proposed alternatives, and some catch statistics.
Frames #8 and # 9 in the above document lay out the listed alternatives, BUT Mid Water Trawler interests asked for seasonal components to be considered for the alternatives. What that means is that the herring boats could be allowed in those areas in certain times slots. Alternatives 3, 4, 5,6 all were for year round, but the MWT boats wanted to have a fall back to get in there after September 30. (When we are doing our best tuna fishing in Oct- Nov !!!)
FRAMES 11, 12 AND 13 Show the herring catches from the MWT boats. It also shows the increased catches from the Great South Channel area from 2000 to 2015. (why there is no tuna there)
Frames 25 and 26 show the tuna landing areas and the sharp 75% decline in tuna landings in our Great South Channel area from 2000-2005 to 2006-2010, after the MWT vessels started fishing there.
Pay attention to these issues folks, and be willing to take the time to send an email to the appropriate NEFMC personnel when the time comes. If you are a New England Fisherman I would expect to see you at these meetings to stand up to the microphone and protect the fisheries you love.
Its Earth Day, lets do our part to protect both sea herring and river herring (alewife)
Thanks very much,
Bruce & “Marilyn S”