September 27, 2010

Controversy swirls around herring catch

On Tuesday, regulators will start forming a new management plan for the New England fishery.

By Beth Quimby
Staff Writer

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Supporters of mid-water trawlers say they are not to blame for the river herring's decline, nor are their vessels responsible for more bycatch than any other fishery.

"We are not the smoking gun. I object to the campaign to put us out of business," said Peter Moore of Freeport.


Moore is a member of the Sustainable Fisheries Coalition, which includes the mid-water trawling industry. He also is a partner in NORPEL, a herring and mackerel fishing and processing business in New Bedford, Mass., that uses mid-water trawlers.

Moore said he supports regulations based on reliable science, but right now it doesn't exist.

His organization is working with a $250,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to figure out more about the trawlers' impact on river herring, and to develop a system to avoid schools of river herring at sea. Moore said he is not opposed to more onboard monitoring, as long as herring fishermen don't wind up paying the costs.

Maine lobstermen haven't taken sides. Patrice McCarron, executive director of the Maine Lobstermen's Association, said her group is waiting to see what changes the management council proposes.

"The basic concern we have is, how is it all going to be paid for. We don't want any costs passed on to the lobster fishery," McCarron said.

George LaPointe, commissioner of Maine's Department of Marine Resources, said he wants to see regulations that provide more information about monitoring the fishery and bycatch -- not just by mid-water trawlers but also by purse seiners.

"Let's address this regardless of fishing gear," LaPointe said.

On Tuesday, the council's herring committee will consider a range of changes to the herring regulations to address concerns about bycatch and the fishery's impact on groundfishing.

"It is hard to say where we are going to end up," said Steele, the plan coordinator.

The council will then analyze the alternatives for their biological, economic and social impact and seek public input at meetings around New England next year. 

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:


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