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Cape Cod Declining Herring Stocks and Midwater Trawling

Over the last two decades local herring stocks have been on the decline. Both river herring and ocean herring (or sea herring) populations have been at noticeably lower levels. The river herring populations are unfortunately adversely effected by environmental issues such as runoff and pollution which can take some of the blame for their decline. The numbers are big enough to factor the rapidly expanding seal population into the river herring decline as well. The reason for the decline of sea herring stocks and the fish that rely on them as part of the food chain is another thing.

Much of the blame is placed on the midwater trawlers that have been targeting ocean herring off the East coast since the 1990’s. Midwater or pelagic trawling targets the “feed fish” or “bait fish” like herring and mackerel. These “feed fish” are at the bottom of the food chain which means that other larger fish species from cod and tuna to whales rely on these fish for food. These trawlers are also said to have a large bycatch of other commercial species like haddock and other fish that are discarded.

Declining Herring video featuring interviews of some local fishermen, NMFS officials, fishing groups, and pelagic trawling industry reps on the effects midwater trawling on the local herring population.

New England’s Midwater Trawl Fishery this video explains the process of midwater trawling and some of the effects it has on other fisheries.

So let’s make sure I have this right. The NMFS is allowing a pelagic trawl fishery to catch millions of pounds of these “feed fish” while trying to save and rebuild all the other fish stocks that feed and rely on these fish for their survival? It is backward-ass fisheries management to try to rebuild stocks such as cod, while making it harder for the cod to find something to eat.

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 11/13/08
Categories: FishingIssuesNature
Keywords: herring, mackerel, feed fish, bait fish, NMFS, midwater trawlers, pelagic trawling, cod, fisheries management, bycatch


There are 2 basic problems with your article: (1) Atlantic (sea) herring populations are not in decline. The Northeast Science Center has assessed the population as robust; and (2) there is no evidence that herring midwater trawlers have any significant bycatch of rebuilding species in the region. The article in general is not factual.

Posted by Mary Beth Tooley from Camden, Maine on 11/15/08 at 02:28 AM | #

(1) We the fishermen have been seeing less and less sea herring and other bait fish on both the inshore and offshore grounds off Cape Cod. It seems like they were seeing the same thing in Maine too. Sorry, but the people at The Northeast Science Center are not fishermen.

(2) Every fishery has bycatch… Bycatch Blues and more recently Haddock bycatch upsets groundfishermen and Estimates of River Herring Bycatch in the Directed Atlantic Herring Fishery (PDF)

Posted by Cape Cod from Cape Cod, Massachusetts on 11/15/08 at 04:23 AM | #

Related Posts: are tagged with herring, mackerel, feed fish, bait fish, NMFS, midwater trawlers, pelagic trawling, cod, fisheries management, bycatch
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