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Herring fleet's monitoring shouldn't be one size fits all
April 01, 2009
Over the last decade, fishermen in New England have been concerned about the monitoring system in the Atlantic herring fishery. Many of us feel that this system has been entirely inadequate and as a result managers have not had the data they need to properly manage the fishery. Until a better system is put in place, these fears will continue to grow.
Fortunately, the New England Fishery Management Council began work on a new herring amendment (Amendment 4) last year, the main goal of which is to build a system to address the shortcomings in the monitoring system in the herring fishery. Last month the Council voted on and approved a range of management alternatives to develop and we believe that Alternative 3 has the potential to revolutionize how the herring fishery is monitored.
Alternative 3 is based on a few key tools for monitoring this fishery. At the core of this alternative is the idea of maximized retention (or minimized dumping) which would be verified by the use of Video Based Electronic Monitoring (VBEM). These tools would be coupled with a rigorous shoreside monitoring program that would analyze the catch and collect all relevant data. In other words, the goal would be to have the herring vessels bring almost all of the catch ashore instead of having large amounts dumped at sea and the onboard cameras would ensure that this rule was being complied with. While the goal would be to bring everything ashore, we understand that there are some concerns that people have with that idea and we feel that Alternative 3 has tools that could assuage those concerns if done right.
Another key to Alternative 3 is what is called the Catch Monitoring and Control Plan (CMCP), which would be devised by each vessel in the fishery. Instead of having a ‘one size fits all’ rule, vessels would be able to develop a system that works for them. While this will require some effort on behalf of the vessels in the fishery, we strongly believe that it will benefit them greatly.
A similar system to the one proposed in this alternative is in already in west coast Whiting fishery, and so this is not uncharted territory. We feel that if developed correctly, it could work well in the herring fishery off our coast. Not only do we feel that this system would be more economical over the long run than trying to increase observer coverage to an extremely high level, it would also put an end to the unnecessary dumping at sea of large amounts of unsampled catch and the uncertainty that results from it.
Fisherman in this region have been concerned about this fleet since the midwater boats came on the scene ten years ago and until an adequate monitoring system is put in place, these concerns will only continue to grow. We hope that the managers will see the benefits of the system proposed in Alternative 3 and work to installing it over the coming year.