In the News

Fish Talk in the News – Friday, June 22

Fisheries managers should take an ecosystem-based approach, including protection for forage fish like these river herring. Photo credit: Mike Laptew

  • It’s been a big week for efforts to protect river herring and shad.  In a letter to the Portland Press Herald on Tuesday, Kim Libby, a fisherman’s wife, explained the need for federal regulation of the industrial Atlantic herring fleet.  While the mid-water trawlers that compose the industrial fleet are supposed to target Atlantic herring, they often catch protected species such as river herring and groundfish as bycatch, and are allowed to fish in areas that are closed to both small-scale and industrial groundfish fishing efforts.  Patrick Paquette, a recreational fisherman and boat captain in Hyannis, MA, has also voiced concern over the environmental impacts of the industrial herring fleet.  When the issue came before the New England Fisheries Management Council (NEFMC) on Wednesday, the Council voted to require observers on every fishing trip made by the industrial Atlantic herring fleet.  This will allow them better insight into the types and quantities of species being caught in the trawl nets, and how the fishing vessels deal with bycatch.  The Council also voted to develop strict caps on the fleet’s river herring bycatch.
  • The House of Representatives is looking at a bill to fight illegal fishing.  Should it pass, the “Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act” would include measures to enhance monitoring and enforcement of fishing regulations, increase the nation’s ability to punish “pirate” fishing vessels, and stop illegally caught seafood from entering the market.
  • The EPA, U.S. Geological Survey, and NOAA will team up with researchers and students from local universities to complete the first ever expedition to map the sea floor of Long Island Sound.  Scientists and regulators both herald the project as the most comprehensive scientific study of the Sound ever initiated.  Its results will be very useful in guiding the management of fisheries and other marine resources, energy infrastructure, dredging plans, and climate change adaptation.
  • The Portland Press Herald published an article on Saturday discussing the poor social, ecological, and economic health of many of New England’s fisheries and fishing communities.  While some stocks have recovered in response to effective management, many others are still struggling, and this is further complicated by the inherent uncertainty in stock assessments despite scientists’ best efforts.  CLF’s Peter Shelley points out that New England’s groundfish fisheries are in an especially sensitive place given that they were fished “close to oblivion” before effective regulations were implemented.  On a positive note, river herring have been returning to New England’s waterways in record numbers recently – a very good sign for the marine ecosystem as a whole.

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