Posted on Tuesday, March 6
River herring, an important but severely depleted fish species on the East Coast, may finally get much-needed protections from unregulated ocean catch. Managers will soon vote on a new set of rules to regulate industrial trawlers, vessels which scoop up millions of these fish off our coast each year. Throughout March and April, there are opportunities for all of us – including you – to voice concerns and take actions to ensure that river herring populations, and the ecosystems they support, will remain healthy for generations.
River herring's ecological role can't be understated. They are a forage fish: schooling fish that occupy a crucial point in the ocean food web, consuming plankton before being eaten by other animals. However, unintentional catch of river herring by offshore commercial vessels threatens their survival and recovery.
These industrial trawlers tow nets that are longer than a football field and taller than a five-story building. They are the biggest vessels on the East Coast, with catches so large a single tow of the net could potentially wipe out one river's entire herring population. This winter, the problem hit closer to home, when trawlers targeted Atlantic herring in Rhode Island's shallow state waters. These same boats can often be seen in sensitive coastal waters such as Ipswich Bay and the Cape Cod area.
Most states have banned river herring fishing, even prohibiting the taking of a single fish for use as bait. Yet nothing has been done to protect these fish in federal waters, beyond three miles from shore. It's time to close this loophole.
Please make your views known at one of the public hearings being held across New England throughout this month. Voice your support for common sense solutions like having federal observers on all trips by these industrial vessels, requiring them to provide their entire catch to these observers for inspection instead of dumping huge amounts of it unseen, and enacting an overall limit on the amount of river herring they can catch and kill each year. Our fishery managers need to hear from you!
Wednesday, March 14, 7-9 p.m., Gloucester, MA
MA Division of Marine Fisheries, Annisquam River Station, 30 Emerson Ave.
Thursday, March 15, 7-9 p.m., Portsmouth, NH
Sheraton Harborside Hotel, 250 Market St.
Monday, March 19, 7-9 p.m., Fairhaven, MA
Seaport Inn, 110 Middle St.
Wednesday, March 21, 7-9 p.m., Portland, ME
Holiday Inn by the Bay, 88 Spring St.
Tuesday, March 27, 7-9 p.m., Plymouth, MA
Radisson Hotel Plymouth Harbor, 180 Water St.
Wednesday, March 28, 7-9 p.m., Warwick, RI
Hilton Garden Inn, One Thurber St.
Thursday, March 29, 7-9 p.m., Cape May, NJ
Congress Hall Hotel, 251 Beach Ave.
Wednesday, April 25, 6-8 p.m., Mystic, CT
Hilton Hotel, 20 Coogan Blvd.