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Fishermen Demand Better Management of Atlantic Herring
October 16, 2005
An urgent problem faces the fishing fleet of New England, and an imperative decision looms at the next meeting of the New England Fishery Management Council. Overshadowed by the recent release of groundfish stock assessments, the fate of the Atlantic herring fishery is a growing priority for all those concerned with the future of New England’s oldest industry.
Commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, conservation groups and other non-industry ocean users believe that both a biological and an economical disaster is imminent, if not underway. The controversy over midwater trawling in the Northeast is uniting otherwise disparate groups with a common message to remove the detrimental trawlers from the inshore region and to restore the herring stocks to healthy levels.
In November, the New England Fishery Management Council will convene in Hyannis, Massachusetts and ultimately decide the outcome of the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan (FMP). The Coalition for the Atlantic Herring Fishery’s Orderly, Informed and Responsible Long Term Development (CHOIR) vehemently supports Alternative 7 to Amendment 1 of the herring FMP.
Alternative 7 will institute a “buffer zone” which would prevent the midwater trawl fleet from entering the inshore Gulf of Maine between June 1st and September 30th of each year. The alternative also establishes a bycatch cap for haddock, thus reducing the amount of groundfish wasted by the indiscriminate midwater fleet.
In Chatham, Massachusetts, the George’s Bank Hook Sector is concerned with the amount of haddock bycatch that occurs in the midwater trawl fleet. Peter Taylor, a lifelong fisherman and President of the Board of Directors for the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association warned that, “As a fleet, we have sacrificed for years to rebuild the haddock stocks. If the midwater trawlers aren’t stopped, we are going to lose the only fish that is keeping our businesses alive.”
Naturalist Zack Klyver of the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company is vested in protecting the herring in the Gulf of Maine. He corroborates, “Simply stated, large boats that can run long hours under any weather conditions are effectively wiping out schools of herring in areas where humpbacks and fins historically gather to feed.”
Responsible citizens who are no longer willing to stand by and allow another one of New England’s fish stocks to be mismanaged are urged by the CHOIR Coalition to voice their concerns to the Council. Letters in support of Alternative 7 submitted to the Council before October 24, 2005, send a clear message that Alternative 7 is not only the most conscientious, but also the most supported option.