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CHOIR Announces New Leadership
May 31, 2007
For Immediate Release: May 31, 2007
CHOIR COALITION ANNOUNCES NEW LEADERSHIP AND INTITIATIVE TO MONITOR INDUSTRIAL MIDWATER TRAWL FLEET
Chatham, MA CHOIR (Coalition for Atlantic Herring’s Orderly, Informed and Responsible Long Term Development), a coalition of commercial and recreational fishermen and ecotourism companies that is New England’s leading voice for conservation and accountability in the herring fishery, proudly announces tuna fisherman Steve Weiner of Andover, MA and Ogunquit, ME as its new chairman. Mr. Weiner replaces former chairman Peter Baker and becomes the fourth chairman of the industry coalition. The coalition also announced Chatham fisherman Ray Kane as vice chairman.
“Herring are the most important fish in the ocean. Nearly all of our commercially and recreationally important fish stocks rely on herring as a key component of their diet,” said Chairman Steve Weiner. Furthermore the New England lobster industry depends on a healthy herring resource for its primary source of bait. “The CHOIR Coalition is leading the fight for an accountable herring fishery that provides forage for predators, an adequate bait supply for lobstermen, and protection of groundfish in closed areas.”
In addition, CHOIR announced an initiative to monitor the industrial midwater trawl fleet fishing for herring and to keep industrial midwater trawlers out of areas closed to groundfishing. The initiative will include surveillance from the water and the air. Planes and boats with camera crews will film the giant vessels as they operate. “We’ve been asking the feds for years to monitor this fleet and they haven’t had the resources to get the job done, so we have to step up and do it ourselves,” said Vice Chairman Ray Kane of Chatham, MA. In addition to monitoring the fleet from the air and water, CHOIR has set up a webpage (www.choircoalition.org/sightings/report.php) and a toll-free number- 1-866-678-BAIT (2248) for fishermen to report sightings of midwater trawl activity on the water.
“These industrial ships tow nets as big and wide as a football field with tiny mesh that catch everything in their path, but they operate without any real oversight. The midwater trawl fleet is basically monitored on the honor system,” said former Chairman Peter Baker of Chatham, MA. “These are the biggest ships that have fished in New England since the foreign fleet wiped out the herring stock in the 70’s. It’s reckless and unacceptable to allow this industrial fleet to operate without effective oversight.”
Over the last five years CHOIR has pushed the National Marine Fisheries Service to put federal observers on the industrial midwater herring trawl fleet to monitor what the fleet catches. There is widespread concern in both the commercial and recreational fishing industries that the industrial fleet underreports how much herring they catch. Additionally, there are concerns about how much other marine life is killed by the industrial fleet. “These huge industrial ships have the potential to accidentally catch huge amounts of striped bass, haddock, white-sided dolphins and all kinds of other fish and marine mammals,” said Baker. “If we’re serious about rebuilding fish stocks here in New England, then the first step is holding the industrial herring fleet accountable for what they do in the ocean.”