Regulators to Discuss Localized Depletion of Herring

Several large trawlers tracked just offshore Eastham and Orleans this week.

Several large trawlers tracked just offshore Eastham and Orleans this week.

CHATHAM – The New England Fishery Management Council will meet in Newport, Rhode Island tomorrow and an organization that supports local fishermen will push for a buffer zone to move midwater trawlers further off shore.

The Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance is looking to move the large herring trawlers at least 50 miles from the Cape and Islands to protect the ecosystem and small-boat coastal fisheries.

The management council will discuss ways to address “localized depletion” in the herring fishery, which is a key source of food for whales and larger fish.

“Our concern is that they are depleting the forage species that we need for tuna, stripers, cod, haddock, dogfish, the whales – all of that stuff is the food chain and they are sucking up the lower end of it,” said Bruce Peters, an Orleans fisherman from the vessel Marilyn S.

Current regulations allow for the midwater trawlers to fish beyond three miles from shore from Provincetown past the Islands.

A vessel tracking program showed about a half dozen trawlers about three or four miles off the Coast of Orleans and Eastham along the back side of the Cape earlier this week.

“They have huge boats. They can go to Georges Bank. They can go offshore. They can fish herring pretty much anywhere,” Peters said. “Our small-boat fleets are 30 to 40-foot boats. We don’t have the luxury of being to go way, way offshore like that.”

The council will review options to prevent localized depletion but will not vote Thursday. A decision is expected in January.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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