The Free Press - Midcoast Maine
by Christine Parrish
The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) passed four of the five regulations that increase oversight of the large Atlantic herring fishing trawlers (less than 50 boats) that fish in the federal waters that start three miles off the coast and extend out 200 miles into the ocean.
The midwater trawlers have been accused of overfishing the Atlantic herring to the point where it has severely affected other fisheries, including inshore fishing and recreational fishing, and are thought to be responsible for heavy impact on river herring (alewives and blueback herring). Alewives are currently being evaluated for potential listing as an endangered species.
At a regional council meeting held in Portland this week, the NEFMC passed the following:
• All mid-water herring trawlers will need to have an independent monitor, referred to as an observer, onboard to collect data on the catch sizes and record which fish are caught by accident (bycatch)
• A plan to weigh all fish caught and brought to port
• Requirements that allows observers to count bycatch (which includes rare river herring) before they are discarded at sea
• Increased accountability of ships fishing in closed areas.
The NEFMC failed to pass a cap on the amount of river herring that can be caught as bycatch, but there was consensus among the council about the need to pass a cap.
According to the Pew Environment Group, who favors a cap, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) impeded passing a cap on Wednesday, but many of those sitting at the table favor a cap and plan to bring it up again in the near future.