New England Fisheries

Local News Outlets Highlight Cape Fishermen’s Frustration with Herring Midwater Trawlers

Vessels that catch Atlantic herring in New England dwarf the size of most New England fishing boats—and the kayaker pictured here. Photo credit: Greg Wells.

The New England Fishery Management Council will resume its discussion on localized depletion of Atlantic herring at its meeting tomorrow (11/17). The Council, however, is not expected to approve a range of alternatives, such as inshore buffer zones, to address localized depletion of Atlantic herring until its January meeting. In the meantime, the Herring Committee is attempting to steer the evaluation of potential alternatives in a problematic direction.

At its most recent meeting, the Herring Committee approved a motion that would raise the bar for analysis of localized depletion. The Committee proposed reframing the evaluation of potential inshore buffers based on areas of “high” user conflicts, that is where interests of multiple ocean users overlap. Analysis of localized depletion is already challenging enough, though, without this ambiguous new framing (e.g., what is a “high” vs. medium or low user conflict?). More importantly, the concerns raised by fishermen and other ocean users are not just about user conflicts. Localized depletion of herring results in conflicts, but the core concern is that the herring midwater trawl fleet is depleting near-shore areas of forage fish, which changes the behavior of predators, and in turn, negatively impacts commercial and recreational ocean users.

During its review of the Herring Committee report tomorrow, the Council should act to ensure that analysis of potential alternatives to address localized depletion remains focused on the core issue raised during public scoping: disruption of predator-prey dynamics—not the spatial overlap of the herring midwater trawl fleet and other ocean users.

If you’re new to the issue of localized depletion, or need a refresher before tomorrow’s discussion, local Cape Cod news outlets have highlighted the concerns of local fishermen leading up to this week’s Council meeting. A past Talking Fish post also discussed the science supporting Council action to address localized depletion.

Cape Cod Times by Doug Fraser, 11/16/16 –  Herring trawlers just offshore anger Cape Fishermen, 11/16/16 –  Regulators to Discuss Localized Depletion of Herring, 11/11/16 – Fishermen Looking for Changes in Herring Trawling in Local Waters by Les Kaufman, 9/19/16 – What happens when you fish too long and too hard in one spot?


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