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Mega-trawlers off Maine are destroying tuna fishery
March 01, 2003
To the Editor:
My name is Chris Weiner and I have commercially harpooned bluefin tuna for almost my whole life (I am only 20 but I have put in a lot of time). I know that I am not alone in saying that fishing – in my case tuna fishing – is my life.
Harpooning calls for us to be constantly searching, always trying to beat the fish to next punch, and many times this means being where the feed is. While there is no sure bet where the tuna will be, it’s safe to say that it won’t be whether the bait isn’t.
Right now the Gulf of Maine is allowing 200-foot mega-trawlers to midwater trawl for herring. For the last five or so summers, the Gulf of Maine has seen less and less tuna late in the season, and this coincides with the infiltration onto the gulf of countless midwater-trawling vessels.
I may be only 20 years old, but I have seen my share of bluefin up to this point and feel able to make the claim that these boats are completely ruining any chance of a future tuna migration through the Gulf of Maine. Ask anyone who works this area what they think, and I bet you at least nine out of 10 will agree that these midwater boats are ruining the abundance of fish life in the Gulf of Maine.
Ask yourself: What are the staples of the Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine seacoast communities? Commercial fishing, whale watching, the lobster industry, etc. With no herring, there will be no whales, no lobsters, and no commercial fishing.
There is a reason there is so much wealth that comes from this area: what brings it all here, what makes it all possible, is the amount of herring we have been blessed with. But over the last five or so years we have seen a huge decline in herring stocks- although not according to some meaningless scientific report that claims otherwise. Any scientist who says there is more than enough obviously has never actually be on the ocean.
The scientists say there is more than enough an let me state this clearly- there is not! If they allow this raping to occur they will be able to take full credit for the complete absence of not just tuna but all the other things that make the Gulf of Maine what it is.
For the last few years, whenever we find the tuna we find the herring, and shrotly aftyer, so do the big, midwater boats. Jeffreys Ledge used to be a marine wonderland and now it’s a desert.
Every person on the coast realizes the tragedy that is looming and yet your magainze – in my view – is promoting this industry along with the scientists. I know that you have been around the tuna industry firsthand; it’s hard not to when you frequent Perkins Cove. So you surely would know that the scientists also used to say there were no tuna, and in a few snapshots we proved them incapable of judging tuna stocks.
I am telling you that if these boats are allowed to keep working, there will be no Perkins Cove, no Gloucester, no Portland, no New Bedford. No herring means no lobster, no tuna, no whales: just water.
These boats, for the most part, are not even from this country or from this country at all. Many are simply relocating after completely depleting herring stocks in Ireland.
I am sorry if I have been direct with you but I know that if something doesn’t happen soon we will look back at this and say we could have avoided it. I am not alone in this belief- I have yet to meet a supporter for midwater trawling. I just wanted to let you know that we feel this wat and that hopefully you will realize what these boats are doing to the gulf.
The herring are being wiped out, and if you need proof just spend one day on the ocean around these boats and see for yourself. Supporting them is supporting the end of many people’s livelihoods and the end of an ecosystem.
I just hope we all don’t have to say to the supporters of these boats and the scientists themselves, “I told you so.”