Wins for small fish at the New England Fishery Management Council

Following on the heels of good news from the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council meeting in New York City, the New England Council took similar steps to regulate industrial fishing and protect small forage fish at their meeting yesterday (June 20) in Portland, Maine. The Herring Alliance has been working to improve monitoring and oversight of the Atlantic herring fishery since the Alliance was founded in 2007.

The long, hard fight led to a positive outcome as the Council approved the following measures:

(1) Industrial-scale midwater trawl vessels will carry independent observers on 100% of their fishing trips, with the industry contributing to the funding of this comprehensive catch and bycatch monitoring program.

(2) All the fish caught will be weighed, rather than simply a “best guess” estimate of catch from herring vessel captains.

(3) The amount of times each year that industrial trawlers can “slip” the net (dump the contents of the net before an observer can sample the catch) will be capped at 10. If the cap is exceeded, vessels will be forced to return to port if they slip a net.

(4) Vessels fishing in all the Groundfish Closed Areas will be subject to a set of regulations that force them to leave the area if they slip a net. This is a major expansion of a successful program that New England Council adopted on a limited scale a few years ago.

(5) A river herring catch cap will be developed in the next possible Council action.  The Council was poised to request that a river herring cap be developed this fall for implementation on the water in January, but the National Marine Fisheries Service stymied them by providing questionable legal advice and implying that a multi-year amendment process was necessary. The Council disagreed and committed to develop and implement the cap as soon as possible.

Check out this video from Herring Alliance director Peter Baker, talking about yesterday’s meeting.

Also, here’s a round-up of news and opinion pieces about the recent decisions:

Associated Press
Large New England herring boats to carry monitors amid allegations they’re damaging stock

Maine Public Broadcasting
Large Herring Boats to Get On-Board Catch Monitors

Bangor Daily News
Opinion: Conservationists and fishermen agree to agree

New Bedford Standard Times
Guest View: Government throws wet blanket on fishing community's will

Newburyport Daily News
Opinion: Take steps to ensure herring's survival

Warwick Beacon
Advocates give final push to protect river herring

Asbury Park Press
River herring, shad to come under federal management