Fishery Management Council to Make Herring Trawler Decision


CHATHAM – An important decision for the future of the Atlantic Herring fishery will be made Tuesday afternoon by the New England Fishery Management Council.

The council will vote in Plymouth on a proposal that would push midwater trawlers at least 50 miles from the shores of Cape Cod.

The trawlers, which usually work in tandem, use very large nets to scoop up entire schools of herring, which has negatively impacted the local fishing industry and related economies.

Atlantic herring is a food source for many larger fish species and whales which feed in the area. Herring is also an important bait fish in the New England lobster industry.

Fishermen and local officials have urged fishery managers to impose a strict 50-mile buffer zone for the trawlers.

“They’ve removed so many of the herring from the waters that it’s really disrupted the entire ecosystem because there is not a solid forage base for other fish to feed on,” said Amanda Cousart, a policy analyst with the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Association.

Local fishermen and the coalition have been working for well over a decade to protect the inshore waters and the catches of fishermen.

“Since then, really, what we have predicted as a worst case scenario is actually coming true,” Cousart said.

A recent stock assessment indicates that the herring stock has collapsed.

NOAA Fisheries has reduced the sub-annual catch limits for Atlantic herring in the four northeast management areas for the rest of 2018.

The 2018 limits were reduced from 243 million pounds to 110 million.

The New England Fishery Management Council are considering testimony and public statements they have received regarding the proposal, including from a June meeting in Chatham.

“It’s really being compiled so the decision makers can make what they consider to be the best possible decision with the information they have,” Cousart said.

The alliance is optimistic that the upcoming decision will be a positive one for local fishermen.

After the decision is made by the council, it will go to NOAA for review.

“If it doesn’t have a final outcome that we would like to have at the council meeting in September we would focus our efforts on working with the government agency to ensure that protections are enacted,” Cousart said.

The public meeting at Hotel 1620 is open to the public. The final vote is scheduled for 1:45 p.m.


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