CHOIR: Coalition for the Atlantic Herring Fishery's Orderly, Informed, and Responsible Long-Term Development


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Herring health of utmost importance

November 13, 2009

Ask The Editor
By Steve McNally
The Daily News of Newburyport

As a tuna fisherman, I know all too well how important Atlantic herring are as a forage stock in the Gulf of Maine. Bluefin tuna travel thousands of miles to come here and feed during the summer and fall. While these tuna will eat many different species when they are off our coast, what they really come for is herring. This was made very clear in the last decade.

During the ‘90s, large pair trawlers began showing up off the coast, displacing the traditional purse seine fleet as the predominant gear type used to catch herring. These boats are very large, the largest in the region, and tow massive nets between two boats (hence the name “pair trawling”). While the herring and tuna fleets were always able to coexist, these new boats did a lot of damage to the herring resource, and this was seen clearly by the decline in landings in the bluefin fishery. There was an inversely proportionate relationship between tuna landings and the increase in use of pair trawling in the herring fishery. Not only did landings drop, but the fish that were caught were thinner and of lower overall quality, a result of having too little to eat.

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