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*New England Fishery Managment Council-Herring Page
*Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
*Differences in Diet of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
COMPREHENSIVE DISCUSSION: Evidence, background, and more
Below are excerpts from CHOIR’s comments on Herring Amendment 1. This compilation of evidence regarding the depletion of herring as well the amounts of bycatch is very powerful.
Scroll down to the bottom, section 5, to read first hand observations from midwater trawlers and others regarding bycatch in the trawl fishery.
“As discussed above, the PS/FG measure was approved by the Council for several reasons that alone justify final approval of this measure under the MSA. These include to ensure access to the resource by certain gear types and to address the negative impacts resulting from the indiscriminate fishing techniques of the herring midwater trawl fleet that result in localized herring resource depletion, bycatch, and impacts on protected species The purse seine/fixed gear conservation and management measure addresses several of the Council’s longstanding herring management plan objectives, including to prevent overfishing, prevent overfishing of discrete spawning components, provide for the orderly development of the fishery, fully utilize optimum yield, minimize the race to fish, and promote and support research. It also addresses several National Standards, including the requirement minimize bycatch and bycatch mortality and moves the region toward more responsible management of a keystone species in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. (Amendment 1 at pp. 93-95).
National Standard Two of the MSA requires that conservation and management measures be based upon the best available science. It is clear that the proposed purse seine/fixed gear only area is based upon the best available science. For example, there are several scientific papers and other scientific information in the record that demonstrate the keystone role of herring in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem and that support the occurrence of localized depletion of the herring resource in the in-shore area. This science together with scientific information from the Council and NMFS along with corroborating testimony from fishermen and many others with knowledge of the fishery, there is strong support for the Council’s decision to address localized depletion in the in-shore area through the management measure establishing the purse seine/fixed gear area.
The rationale for Amendment 1 specifically refers to a study that supports the NEFMC’s decision to approve the PS/FG only area. These include:
*Weinrich, Mason T., Sardi, Katherine A., Gwalthney, Jon2, Schulte, Dianna W., and Kennedy, Jennifer L. Is Herring Fishing Displacing Humpback Whales on Their New England Feeding Grounds? (Whale Center of New England)
“Jeffrey’s Ledge is an important feeding habitat for humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine, where herring is their primary prey. In 1998, the mid-water and pair trawl fishery for herring in Fishery Management Area 1A (including Jeffreys Ledge) was greatly expanded. Concern has been expressed that the increase in herring catches has displaced humpback whales. We tested this hypothesis using photo-identification data from 1988-2004. Both the number of individual whales identified per year and the number of sightings of identified whales per year showed a significant decrease during the period of increased trawl fishing. The number of whales also significantly correlated with the IA trawl catch per year during the entire study period. Trawl fishing was closed from 15 September-15 October for herring spawning each year. Significantly more whales than predicted by chance were seen during and immediately after these closures in 1999 and 2002-2004, four of the six years for which sufficient effort in October was available. We also documented eight cases from 1998-2004 where whales were consistently sighted until trawl fishing boats were seen, and, then within days, the whales vacated the area. This data is consistent with the hypothesis that herring fishing is displacing whales from a preferred feeding habitat.”
In addition, here are studies that were included in the comments on Amendment 1 as well as others that were available at the time of the Council’s decision.
1) The Keystone Role of Herring as Forage
What Eats Herring in the Gulf of Maine?
According to the Gulf of Maine Aquarium website, “Almost everything.”
The landmark book Fishes of the Gulf of Maine elaborates, explaining that “The herring is the best of all bait fishes in the Gulf, where it is preyed upon by all kinds of predacious fish, especially by cod, pollock, haddock, silver hake, striped bass, mackerel, tuna , salmon, and dogfish, and by the mackerel shark…The finback whales also devour herring in great quantities. The short finned squid likewise destroys multitudes of the young sardines.” (Henry Bigelow and William Schroeder. Fishes of the Gulf of Maine [Fishery Bulletin of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Volume 53, 1953]) 90
The GMA also points out that dolphins, Harbor porpoise, Harbor and gray seals, Atlantic puffins, razorbills, common terns, and artic terns all rely on herring for food as well.
It is also well known that humpback whales, shearwaters, gannets, herring gulls and cormorants all feed on herring as well.
This comprises most of the species in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem that are larger than-and thus capable of-feeding on this small, plankton feeding, forage fish.
*Appendix V of Final Herring Amendment 1-The Role of Atlantic Herring, Clupea Harengus, in the Northwest Atlantic Ecosystem (NEFMC Staff September 2003)-discusses these predator-prey interactions in great depth.
*Andrew Read and Carrie Brownstein. Considering other Consumers: Fisheries, Predators, and Atlantic Herring in the Gulf of Maine. Conservation Ecology 7.1 (2003)
Discusses the need for herring as a forage source for many of the species in the Gulf of Maine. Outlines the possible (gross) underestimation of the natural mortality of herring: for example, the study explains that “We estimate that the consumption of herring by these upper trophic level predators may have exceeded the estimate of natural mortality used in stock assessment models by more than fourfold in 1991” It explains the need for better understanding and quantification of the forage role of herring in the Gulf of Maine and the need to better account for natural mortality when assessing stock size.
*Ecosystem Relationships in the Gulf of Maine- Combined Knowledge of Fishermen and Scientists, a collaborative report published in August 2006 by the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, the Coastal Observing Center at the University of New Hampshire and the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System, also gives a good discussion regarding the importance of herring in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem.
2) Science Supporting That Localized Depletion is Occuring
The Council’s Scientific and Statistics Committee identified the critical need to prevent overfishing of individual spawning components as far back as 2003. The SSC explicitly noted that concentration of effort in the inshore Gulf of Maine is of concern and may be excessive. Recommendations of the NEFMC Scientific and Statistics Committee, June 19, 2003. In addition, data from the NMFS autumn trawl survey reveal that, with the exception of a lone data point in 2003, inshore survey indicies for number and weight per tow have been steadily declining since 199. Amendment 1DSEIS at 123; The 2006 TRAC assessment recommends decreasing the overall MSY for the fishery from 220,000mt to 194,000mt and based on the TRAC report the Council’s herring committee recommended decreasing the inshore TAC from 60,000 mt to 45,000mt and the Council recently voted to reduce the inshore TAC to 50,000mt.
Whales and Other Marine Mammals
*Aliza Milette, Toby Stephenson, Joel Barkan, Peter Stevick, Zackary Klyver and Sean Todd. The Effects of a Shift in Herring Fishery Gear-Type on the Abundance of Two Species of Baleen Whales Off Eastern Maine (Allied Whale, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Bar Harbor Whale Watch)
“Atlantic Herring are an important commercial resource and key forage species for many upper-trophic-level predators in the Northern Gulf of Maine…Over the past decade the herring fishery has undergone a substantial transformation from a primarily purse-seine fishery to a predominance of midwater and pair trawl vessels. With Data collected from local whale watch vessels from 1995-2004, we have seen a notable decline in humpback and fin whales off the Inner Schoodic Ridge…This suggests that the relationship between fishing effort and the presence of whales is a function of the gear type. While the mechanism for this is not clear, trawl fishing is believed to increase the efficiency of fishing vessels in looking and landing herring schools in concentrated areas, presumably removing a greater percentage of fish from a school than seine gear and leaving less for other predators.” (Included in the Amendment 1 herring public comment section from Perry, Maine, 10/14/05)
*Kenney, R.D., P.M. Payne, D.W. Heinemann, and H.E. Winn. Shifts in Northeast Shelf cetacean distributions relative to trends in Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank finfish abundance. 1996. (In: K. Sherman, (N.A. Jaworski, and T.J. Smayda, eds. The Northeast Shelf Ecosystem: Assessment, Sustainability, and Management. Blackwell Science, Boston)
This discusses how the collapse of the Georges Bank herring stock in the seventies and eighties led to changes in the distributions of several important mammal species. It suggests that certain species left the Georges Bank area and moved into new areas to find herring and other forage species due to the crash on the Bank. This is one example of what happens when forage stocks are locally depleted.
The Gulf of Maine has historically had tuna from June through October. Since the explosion in midwater single and pair trawling in the mid 1990’s less and less tuna have been seen staying past mid July. As all tuna fishermen will tell you, this is because the midwater trawlers have locally depleted all the historic feeding grounds for these tuna. The Canadian bluefin fishery has boomed as our fishery has declined, something most attribute to the ban on midwater trawling that has left much more herring in Canadian waters.
*As Bigelow and Schroeder explain, “The tuna is a strong, swift fish and an oceanic wanderer like all its tribe. Probably its chief reason for holding to continental waters along our coasts during the warm seasons is that its prey are more concentrated there and hence more easily caught than over the ocean basin.” (p 340)
*Bradford C. Chase, Differences in Diet of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) at Five Seasonal Feeding Grounds on the New England Continental Shelf. NOAA/NMFS Fishery Bulletin 100(2)
This study used stomach sampling to determine the predominant prey for bluefin tuna. As numerous studies (for example, the studies done by M.E. Lutcavage listed below) and reports have shown, bluefin tuna come to the Gulf of Maine in search of food. This study done by Chase was able to show that tuna on or around Jeffrey’s Ledge feed almost exclusively on Atlantic herring. Jeffrey’s Ledge, and the rest of the inshore Gulf of Maine, have been primary targets for the midwater trawl fleet.
*A study (soon to be published) based on the grading of thousands of bluefin tuna caught in the Gulf of Maine between 1991 and 2004 has shown a steady decline in quality of meat (i.e. fat content) over the 14 year period. Based on records compiled by Bob Campbell of the Yankee Fishermen’s Co-op in Seabrook, NH, Campbell, in combination with UNH researchers Molly Lutcavage, Walt Golet and Andy Cooper, were able to show that what bluefin were remaining in the Gulf of Maine were clearly struggling to put on weight. Bluefin come to the Gulf of Maine to put on weight by gorging on herring and other species all summer. The steady decline in fat content shows that tuna are no longer finding enough high quality (i.e. high fat) forage to put on weight.
As one of the researchers noted, “The quality decline implies either that the quality or quantity of prey has declined,” Golet said. “The fish are still feeding here but they don’t seem to be putting on the weight they used to.” That is, the few fish that have been unlucky enough to try and eek out an existence here are finding less to eat.
(The study is discussed in the August 2005 Commercial Fisheries News (Vol. 33, No. 12), titled “Bluefin Grading Records Show Quality Decline” Found at: CFN
*M.E Lutcavage, M., Goldstein, J., and S. Kraus, Distribution, relative abundance, and behavior of giant bluefin tuna in New England waters, 1995 ICCAT Coll. Vol. Sci SCRS/96/129. (1997)
Explains the way the tuna fishery was in the 1990’s before the herring trawlers beagn to take over.
*M.E. Lutcavage, J.S. Ault, R. Humston and D.B. Olson, Schooling and Migration of Large Pelagic Fishes Relative to Environmental Cues, Fisheries Oceanography 9.2 (2000)
This study discussed movements of bluefin tuna and is useful in understanding their behavior. Particularly, it shows the historic movements of tuna in the Gulf of Maine.
*M.E. Lutcavage, J. Goldstein and R.S. Schick, Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) Distribution in Relation to Sea Surface Temperature in the Gulf of Maine (1994-1996), Fisheries Oceanography 13.4 (2004)
This study is based on aerial surveys of bluefin on surface and provides a good idea of where the fish have historically been found and caught.
[By opening “Final Herring Amendment 1” at the NEFMC Herring page, NEFMC , you can see where the landings and fishing effort has been in the herring fleet. By comparing this data with data from the bluefin tuna fishery, you will see that the herring fleet removes most of its herring from historic tuna grounds.]
*M.E. Lutcavage, R.W. Brill, A.B. Cooper, A.W. Everly, M.P. Genovese, and S.G. Wilson, Movements of Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in the Northwestern Atlantic Ocean Recorded by Pop-Up Satellite Archival Tags, Marine Biology 146 (2005)
This study tracked bluefin using Pop-Up Satellite Tags and shows that in the years studies, essentially no fish were seen in the inshore Gulf of Maine during the times when the fish should have been there. As you can see from the study, most of the fish were on Georges Bank during summer months, where the herring stock has been relatively untouched. Each dot corresponds to the location of a tagged bluefin.(The chart shown is for the months July-October) This data is from 2002-2003, and shows how much has changed since 1994, as a result of increased trawling effort.
The Diet of Artctic Tern Predicts Herring Catches in Bay of Fundy
“The concept of using seabirds to follow changes in prey stocks has been well documented (Barrett et al., 1987; Cairns, 1987; Furness and Barrett, 1991; Montevecchi and Berruti, 1991; Monaghan et al., 1991; Nettleship, 1991; Montvecchi, 1993). Seabirds respond to changes in food supply in a variety of ways. These responses can be reflected in adult survivorship, breeding success, or changes in behaviour, such as diet switching, colony attendance, and activity budgets. Seabirds interact with commercial fisheries in several manners. They can harvest the same size or age of prey as the commercial fisheries, they can depend on forage species which are major foods of other fish harvested by humans, or they can prey on younger age-classes of commercially exploited fish (reviewed in Montevecchi, 1993).”
This is important because in 2004, not a single tern chick survived though summer on Machias Seal Island. This is likely because the tern parents were unable to find enough juvenile herring to feed the chicks, and they, in turn, starved to death. This has been discussed in the public comment period ( Gloucester, MA, 10/19/05) as well as in the article submitted in the public comment period by William Woodwell from The Ocean Conservancy, titled “Beyond the Nest”. This tragic occurrence highlights the very real damage that has been done in the Gulf of Maine.
3) Additional Evidence Indicating that Localized Depletion is Occuring
*Dave Linney, Tuna Fisherman Portland Meeting
“Dr. Molly Lutcavage and Dr. Suzuki (UNH Large Pelagics Lab) have communicated recently a few memos in the past 10 days, and I will paraphrase. One, the Canadian fishery is booming, 75 miles along our border. It is at an average or better place than normal years up there. Suzuki says that the Japanese long line catch data for large fish seem normal. In Iceland, it is becoming the peak season, and there is nothing abnormal there. The Mediterranean fishery is catching slightly larger amounts than last year. In a memo to Molly, Suzuki says that the abnormalities we are facing in our fishery may be local phenomena. I am certainly convinced–having tuna fished myself for 20 years and fished with other people for 30 years-that herring, their main food source, has a very major effect on local tuna fish availability.”
“Another bit here about pop-up satellite tags that were placed on all large tuna fish off North Carolina-20 have released to date. The first eight released off the North Carolina coast and were the earliest releases. The fish were still in the Gulf Stream working towards Bermuda. The rest of tags had August or September release dates-one tag off Wildcat outside the Cape, seven around Nova Scotia, one on the Grand Banks, two south of Iceland, and one of the Bay of Biscay. This was a 96% success rate of the tags releasing and reporting. Not one in the GOM through August and September, a time when I would expect at least half of those tags to come off in that area. Why aren’t they there? Canada is having a good fishery. Canada may have more herring. This is significant in terms of how this affects other fisheries.
We need relief now, and we don’t need it postponed. We need to start to do something to reduce the take. There is localized depletion. People who have been out there fishing for tuna for 30-40 years are seeing schools of bait that are nothing compared to what it used to be.”
*Lexi Krauss, Tuna Fishermen, ECTA, Rockland Maine meeting 10/13/05
“My observations are those of a tuna fisherman. We spend 11, 12 hours a day making eyesight observations as well as fathometer observations. We take in everything we see. Our data had been called anecdotal, but it is what it is.”
“I think that the midwater trawl fishery has been destructive to the lifestyle of herring. One of the things we see on the fathometer is a lack of the big schools of fish that we saw in the 1980s and mid 1990s. We have seen it go downhill since about 1995, which was the peak of the tuna fishery in Maine. Our fishery has been declining ever since. When you see less big schools of fish year by year, you do see herring and mackerel, but you see the schools broken up. It is an incessant fishery that gives them no break. Seining takes place at specific times of day, and they have breaks with the weather. The trawl fishery goes on and on. We go to areas in early June with a fair amount of herring, and within weeks if not days, the herring are gone, the groundfish boats are complaining, the whale boats are gone. As a tuna fisherman, I am always looking for whales, and they are gone.”
*Charley Finley, F/V Western Sea [Herring fisherman] Rockland meeting
“Back in the late 1970’s and early 1980s, I was a captain on one of the Stinson seiners. At that time, European stocks collapsed. We all started pair trawling, and we did that for three seasons. At the end of those three seasons when we rigged back for seining, it was almost five years before the schools came back together. Anyone who says they don’t spread out the herring is not telling the facts.”
*Zack Klyver, Naturalist, BH WW written comment, Rockland meeting
“We have also seen less site tenacity and less whales in recent years. From May 28th through July 4th, we ran over forty whale watch trips offshore and on 35% of these trips we saw no whales. You may be told during these hearings that this is a result of a change in ocean temperature, a decrease in plankton, or that the herring have simply gone somewhere else. We would argue that if there a downturn in the ecosystem for any reason, then all the more reason to take a PRECAUTIONARY APPROACH when managing a fishery that is so important as forage to so many large pelagic species and groundfish.”
“Midwater trawl representatives have said there is no scientific proof that their fishing practices result in dispersion of herring fish schools. That doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Furthermore, what we are saying is that there is a dispersion of whales and tuna, we have thought about how to conduct a study that would quantify the impacts of midwater gear on these large pelagics. But, just because no large scale scientific study has been conducted doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening.”
Zack @ Perry Maine Meeting
“We feel-as a whale watching business in Bar Harbor- impacted by the midwater trawl fleet because we consistently see it over time. When we do see an abundance of any life show up, we see the midwater trawl and pair trawl boats show up, and we see an immediate decrease in the numbers of whales and tuna. It would be one thing if it was just happening to us, but I have been talking to the rest of the whale watching industry in New England-Boothbay, a boat out of Portland, Cape Ann, a boat out of Hyannis. I talk with the naturalists on these boats, and they have said the same type of thing that I have said. It is a real concern to them. It is not just happening out here.”
*Darrin Kelly, Gouldsboro Maine, Perry Meeting
“I am starting an ecotourism guiding company in Gouldsboro and plan to take clients out sea kayaking, canoeing and hiking. The idea is to get working with local researchers and get hands-on and involved with research to get an in-depth, richer experience. In terms of forage, it is important to remember that millions of dollars are being spent to bring back a number of different sea birds. In terms of economics and wise use of dollars, it makes sense to start protecting the local stocks of herring.”
“There has been a huge die off of chicks in the past few years…There has been nasty weather, but the largest cause is that there hasn’t been food. These birds are here for a month and a half, and they are here to feed. It’s the same thing with the whales. There is a really small time window, so it only takes a few boats-particularly if they are big boats-to gobble up all of the fish.”
“The purse seines never actually broke up the schools, but the midwater trawl boats- and I hate to call them midwater trawl boats because if you look at your own data, you can see how many lobsters they are bringing up- the reality is that it won’t take too many trawls to literally wipe out chicks.”
*Jeff McLean, Engineer, F/V Western Sea, Fairhaven MA meeting, 10/17/05
“I started in this industry [herring] in 1992…If I had my way, the trawlers would not be fishing on the coast of America. It’s become a high-tech game with the trawlers and bycatch problems. It’s too efficient and it’s basically a slaying machine.”
“I remember coming out of Gloucester two hours before sunset, and we were usually in by midnight, setting our seines once or twice. The trawlers were starting at that same time. It got to the point over a period of time that the fish were getting brushed like with a coarse broom, with these trawls running back and forth through the schools of fish. They can’t do their natural things and hang out in a school. They wind up getting broken up into smaller schools. When we first started, the schools were so large that you just had to take a bite out of them…A few years ago, it got to the point where we were setting seines seven times a night and not filling up the boat…I am speaking as an observer only, I don’t own anything, I only work on the boats. But I have seen what has been going on and I’ve got the guts to stand up here and talk to you about it.”
*Robert Fitzpatrick, bluefin tuna dealer, Fairhaven meeting
“When I look at the data with 1968 as the prior peak in the fishery followed by a collapse, the indices of abundance now are better, yet a state-of-the-art fleet now is struggling at around 40,000 tons so far this year. There are defections amongst the boat owners involved in the fishery who say that the scientists just have it wrong. We have tens of thousands of observations, probably hundreds of thousands since 1997, namely illegal bait nets on tuna boats, that paint a picture very different than what the science is seeing. Those observations- you hear it more and more that there aren’t any fish, that it’s a desert, it has already collapsed.”
“Fishery science tends to precede or be late, and it is usually late, and it already collapsed. For a while, I thought that perhaps we didn’t have a good spring bloom. Barbara Block [tuna scientist] from Stanford had said it was the herring trawlers but it was also a lack of a spring bloom. But we had a hell of a spring bloom this year.”
“We have seen-especially in the last four years-tuna fish show up in the GOM like clockwork when they are supposed to, large bodies of fish from predominant year classes in 1994 and 1995. Three years ago, they stayed about a month before they left. Two years ago, it was two and a half weeks. This year it was 4 or 5 days. On the other side of the Hague line, American vessels watched tens of thousands of giant bluefin within 7-15 miles of the Line, unable to fish on anything on our side.”
“The Canadians have the fish like they have never had them before. They have our fish.”
*Bill Henchy, tuna fisherman, Fairhaven Meeting
“I have watched over the past 4 or 5 years, as that fishery [bluefin] has come to failure in the GOM and in the Great South Channel, at least for giant bluefin…The giant fishery is collapsed; the general category of NE is not catching its quota by rod and reel. The harpoon category has not caught its quota over the last several years. The purse seine category, the most mobile and most efficient of the giant bluefin tuna gear groups, is not catching its quota. I believe and many others in the tuna industry believe that this is directly related to the depletion of Atlantic herring in the GOM and in the GSC as a result of industrial scale midwater herring trawlers.”
“In late May and early June annually, the area where the herring aggregate, bluefin tuna arrive as they have always done to feed on those herring. It is now an annual event that the herring trawlers arrive, and schools of herring are gone. The whales are gone, the seabirds are gone, the area turns into a desert, and bluefin tuna are gone, not to return in any significant numbers.”
“I have also notices that the only time there has been any decent bluefin fishing anywhere is in the short periods before the herring trawlers arrive.”
“With respect to the comments made here tonight and some of the things in the document, my observation is that the notion that herring is underutilized and that overfishing is not occurring does not have any scientific support in the documents. I had heard that, but when I read the amendment, I see that there is no currently accepted stock assessment for herring and there is a wide variation between US and Canadian scientists on the order of three times.”
“There is absolutely no justification for permitting this kind of gear, which was allowed into closed areas on the premise that it was not capable of catching groundfish, to go in, and having the Council do this tap dance around the haddock interaction and a tap dance around the other groundfish species that are being caught with midwater trawl gear.”
*Peter Berelli, Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, Fairhaven Meeting
“The Center for Coastal Studies has for the past 25 years or more maintained North Atlantic humpback database for the GOM. We conduct annual surveys throughout the Gulf and we synthesize opportunistic data gathered by the whale watch companies throughout the region. We have clearly observed over the past 5-6 years a steady decline in humpback activity in Areas 1A and 1B…”
*Mike Blanchard, [tuna fisherman] F/V Jean Maria, Gloucester MA meeting, 10/19/05
“I can’t imagine what some of the people in this room are going though for as many years as they have suffered in one fishery-bluefin tuna with conservation and management, and now for the last three years, it seems every bluefin in the world is some place else. Canada has enjoyed a couple of booming seasons. There has been a prolific fishery for winter bluefin in North Carolina. I don’t think that in either of those places, there is midwater/pair trawling.”
Over the years, there has been mounting concern regarding the high level of bycatch of both marine mammals and fish species by midwater trawl gear. This can be seen in both scientific studies and public comments.
Y. Morizur, S.D. Berrow, N.J.C. Treganza, A.S. Couperus, and S.Pouvreau.
This study documents the bycatch of marine mammals in various NE Atlantic pelagic trawl fisheries. It also discusses/references past documentation/literature of the incidental catch of many multiple species of marine mammals from trawl fisheries in both the NW and NE Atlantic. Finally, it discusses the strandings of large numbers of marine mammals caused by what many believe to be interactions with pelagic trawl gear.
OBSERVATIONS BY FISHERMEN AND OTHERS
*Glenn Robbins, F/V Western Sea, Portland Maine Meeting 10/12/05
“I am a purse seiner and a trawler...The fish are being depleted…I’ve seen too many problems with a trawl. I’ve got one…We hauled back sometimes and we have too many fish. Sometimes you get too many fish, more than a million pounds, and you can get ut back and you tow until it breaks, and you lose the whole thing.”
“Their fishery [the trawlers] was bad for the groundfish fishery, and pair trawling was outlawed for groundfish. These nets are mostly towed on bottom and it is groundfish they are catching, and we know that…It is not a good fishery.”
“The fishery will sustain itself if we go seining on these fish… We tried to pair trawl, and it is a lot different than a single boat. We had twice as many as we were supposed to catch and barely got the net up. With a seine, the fish are alive until we get ready to pump them. We can let them go…if we have too many, we let the end out, and the fish go free. If we are targeting big fish and we catch small ones, we let the small ones go without hurting them and then go somewhere else and find big ones. But I have seen trawlers haul back and dump a load. When they first started, 7-8 years back on Jeffrey’s, four boats hauled back and all dumped everything they had and offshore further…It’s a bad way to catch herring. If you do it with a purse seine, its good, and you wont catch and groundfish.”
Glenn @Rockland Maine meeting
“The Canadians have limits on the boats…They wont let the trawlers on the shore, they have to go to Georges. They don’t like the spawning beds to get ripped up. Herring spawn on gravel and sand where the trawlers can tow. They are draggers, and they rip up the spawning ground, and that destroys that stock for next year. We are having that problem right now-trawlers are fishing on ripe and running fish in Ipswich [Bay] and below. It’s been happening every year since we have had spawning closures.”
“I also want 100% observer coverage. I welcome observers on our boat. The problem is what I hear is that they check the trawlers and say that they don’t have too much bycatch at times, and I ask why. They say that they are only towing at night, when the fish lift. I suspect that if there is not an observer on there, they are towing on the bottom during the daytime. That’s when they are on the bottom and the easiest to catch. That’s what we do when we tow with our trawl net on bottom. And it tears up the spawning beds.
Glenn @ Fairhaven meeting
“That large area of tuna fish that the guy saw- there are a lot of those caught with trawl nets.”
“My skipper didn’t tell me this until the public hearing in Rockland, but he has caught more haddock in one tow with a midwater trawl net than he has with a groundfish net. Don’t tell me those nets don’t fish on bottom. They rip the spawning beds up too.”
*Barry Matthews, F/V Ocean Venture Portland meeting
“I am another purse seiner (and midwater trawler). I know it is hard for a lot of people to swallow changing over to purse seiners, but if we don’t, there will be no fishery. Sitting behind the wheel every night, I have seen a big problem with depletion out there.”
“There has been seining going on for the last 40 or 50 years in different countries, and the outlook for them still looks good. What has gone on here in the last 10 years is a disaster. I have done it myself–the bycatch that I have caught, the whales-you can say I’m lying, but the truth is that is the way it is and you all know it.”
“We’ve got localized depletion whether anyone wants to believe it or not. The records will show this…We need to do something today for tomorrow, or there will be no tomorrow.”
*Dan Fill, Herring Seiner/Trawler Captain
“Yeah, I tow the bottom as tight as I can get it because its mostly sand in a lot of places, and you will get bycatch.”
“Before I started seining, I was lobstering offshore, and I see the gear wiped out by trawling. I have had traps hanging off my doors, and it is a mess. I am against trawling.”
“I’ve been doing this for 23 years. If you say that there is fish out there now, you are crazy…I am riding around every night, looking and looking, and I see less fish every year, and I am working harder and harder.”
“I can’t speak for everybody, but as far as I know, you are not even a trawler captain if you haven’t caught a whale or a tuna. It’s a standard issue-you are basically told when you buy the gear how to get rid of a whale. And the whales arent swimming off very happy either.”
Dan @ Rockland
“I also fished lobster inshore and offshore. I see it day in and day out- the midwater trawl and pair trawl go up inside. I have seen them tow for miles through lobster gear. I call them on the radio and they just shut the radio off.”
“Chafing gear shouldn’t be on the footrope [of the trawl]. *I have chafing gear on my midwater trawl, and I’m glad it’s there. I will make one tow and chafe the meshes right off the footrope. I’d probably do it within an hour because I am towing the bottom so hard.*”
“Charlie Finley-15 years ago-pointed out the midwater trawlers are the end of the fisheries, and he was right. He said the fish are going to break up in every direction. There will be months when you won’t find any fish at all, and this is all happening.”
“I have had bigger sets of groundfish in my midwater trawl than I have in my groundfish codend.”
“I know for a fact that there is bycatch in there. I know there are seals- if they get down east of Isle au Haute, the net will be full of seals. They catch whale and porpoise. I know a boat that quite a few porpoises the other night.”
*Zack Klyver, naturalist, Rockland meeting/written comments
“We take issue with the idea put forward by the midwater industry that the gear is best because it is efficient. The gear is efficient yet it is incredibly inefficient because it is so wasteful. We feel that the question of how much bycatch of fish and marine mammals occurs in this fishery is still not adequately known. In research of pelagic trawl fisheries in other countries we found considerable evidence for the take of marine mammals in countries such as Ireland, the UK, Spain and New Zealand.”
(Zack notes that pictures of a massive bycatch event of 200-500 thousand Whiting (silver hake) on September, 3 2003 by pair trawlers off the Maine coast will be submitted during the public comment period.)
*Richard Burgess, Gloucester meeting
“As a groundfish fisherman, I am very disturbed by what is going on with the midwater fleet. We have the largest mesh in the world fishing in the GOM for groundfish. There is no other country that is protecting and preserving the fish stocks like we are in the GOM.. Every day, we fish the largest mesh in the world, and right alongside us, we have the midwater trawl nets that are towing small mesh gear between two boats. The gear is huge, and they cover a tremendous area daily, hourly. And there is no way we could continue with this pressure- we will never have a rebuilt groundfish stock here ever.”
Last updated: September 12, 2010