Herring trawlers will have to stop fishing and end the fishing trip if they lower their nets and dump bycatch, such as a haddock and alewife, according to new rules being recommended by the New England Fishery Management Council.

The proposal should “greatly improve accountability” in the Atlantic herring fishery and provide more protection for river herring, shad and haddock, which are sometimes caught accidentally by herring trawlers, said Terry Stockwell, director of external affairs for the Maine Department of Marine Resources and chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council.

Alewife, blue back herring and shad spawn in freshwater streams but spend most of their adult lives in the ocean and occasionally are found in the same fishing grounds as Atlantic herring.

At a meeting last week in Mystic, Conn., the council voted 15-1 to endorse the proposal.

The measure needs final approval by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Under the proposal, trawlers that dump fish after encountering schools of dogfish or because of safety reasons, such as mechanical problems, would have to move at least 15 miles to another fishing area.

The council also voted to recommend that trawlers take steps to make catch reports more accurate, such as measuring the size of fish storage tanks on vessels. The herring fishery operates under an annual quota, so it’s critical that federal regulators know how much herring is caught, Stockwell said.


He said it’s also important that trawlers bring their bycatch to port so it can be counted. The fishery has limits for how much bycatch can be harvested over the course of a season.

Atlantic herring is the primary lobster bait for Maine’s lobster industry. The herring fishery Maine was valued in 2013 at about $16 million, or 3 percent of the state’s $531 million commercial fishery, according to the Department of Marine Resources. About 100,000 metric tons of herring are caught annually in New England.

The proposal, if approved, could affect the eight to 11 herring vessels based in Maine. They range in size from 45 feet to 100 feet, said Mary Beth Tooley, a council member. She recused herself on the council vote because she’s a lobbyist for the Rockland-based O’Hara Corp., which owns two herring vessels.

She said she supports the proposal because it’s not too costly or cumbersome to implement.

Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:



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