I know the Lounge isn't really the place for this...but I feel its very important
for people to read this...
Mid-Depth Trawling-Destruction of Herring Populations
By: Gary Schroeder, Northeast Charterboat Captain?s Association
The Latest Assault On Sportfishing
Commercial netting has always had a negative impact on fish stocks, but nothing in history compares to the damage caused by concentrated mid-depth trawling. Using large diameter, small mesh nets to capture entire bait schools, these trawlers are emptying near-shore waters at Jeffries Ledge, Stellwagon and all along the New England coast, depleting the major food supply for cod, haddock, pollock, bluefish, stripers and tuna, along with whales, porpoises and other marine species.
Nets are pulled behind 150 ft trawlers, sometimes between two boats to extend the opening of the extremely large nets, capturing schools of herring and other baitfish, and any fish feeding on them. Favored waters are flat ledges like Jeffries and Stellwagon, where baitfish gather to spawn. On-board electronics allows them to precisely identify bait school locations and position their nets to capture the entire school. The target fish is atlantic herring, although menhaden, juvenile pollock and other bait sized catch are caught by the thousands of tons, and then sold at 6 cents a pound for shipment to Europe for processing. These boats have exemptions to allow netting where other trawlers are banned, there is no escape.
Similar practices in Canada and the north Pacific are closely monitored and regulated, requiring boats to fish 50 miles outside the coast and only where surveys have established an abundance of baitfish. But in the East, they go unregulated in a federal legislative oversight that assumed they would control their own behavior. They have not, nor would any sane person assume they would, instead they have broadened their paths through our best waters for food production, eliminating the bait food and catching thousands of juvenile haddock, pollock and other species (including whales and dolphins) that are returned to the water dead, as ?bycatch?.
New England states and recreational fishermen have lead the way in recovery of groundfish populations (cod and haddock) by strictly following size and bag limits. The recovering cod population shows this is working, but lack of food (especially herring) will spell the end of this recovery. Without sufficient food to support this increased population, we are headed for another crash. Cod and haddock will move further offshore, out of the reach of recreational and sport fishermen. Foraging will be more difficult, causing stress, slow growth, and poor reproduction. Just as the stock is coming back, it will be decimated by lack of food.
The bluefin tuna population is most threatened by mid-depth trawling. These fast growing trophy fish need to eat a quarter of their own weight daily to survive and make it through their annual migrations. They historically feed along the New England coast in mid-summer, with herring their food of choice. Mid-depth trawling has wiped out their main forage and forced the surviving populations to change migrations to survive. Not only are these fish valuable in the Japanese sushi market, sportfishermen consider them to be the most challenging catch on rod and reel. Weighing up to 1000 lbs, these giants can swim at 40 miles per hour and fight for hours. Catches have been so depleted in recent years that recreational fishing has nearly disappeared in New England.
Herring traditionally gather along the coastline in mid-September for spawning in October. They are very vulnerable because the schools are very dense and easily located with new, forward scanning sonar that spots the schools up to a quarter mile in front of the netters, so they can direct their massive nets to capture the entire school in one pass. It is very efficient and deadly. The small net mesh allows nothing to escape. A single trawler can net a million pounds in one trip.
They catch anything feeding on the herring as well. This means haddock, cod, stripers, bluefish, tuna, mammals, and anything else swimming by. It is totally indiscriminate in its catch. The nets move at such a high speed that fish cannot outswim it and are killed by the crush against the net mesh. They are unceremoniously tossed overboard and wasted.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has the charter from the federal government to regulate commercial fishing. They could control this practice by setting quotas, seasons, no-fish zones, equipment requirements to reduce bycatch, or outlawing its use altogether. This damage is being done by a handful of boats in New England waters, only a few jobs are at stake, miniscule when compared to the jobs in recreational fishing and tuna fishing. This needs to stop now!
Please write to your US Congressmen and Senators, expressing your concern and outrage at this practice, and contact the NMFS Regional Administrator, Patricia Kurkel, to implement emergency action to stop midwater trawling on Jeffries Ledge and other near-shore fishing spots, to protect whales and dolphins, sportfishing and recovering groundfish populations. The contact information for NMFS is:
National Marine Fisheries Service
1 Blackburn Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930
Email: [email protected]