Fishing Leaders Seek Public Support for Herring Trawler Buffer Zone


HYANNIS – Local fishing industry leaders are seeking public support to finalize regulations that would push midwater herring trawlers at least 12 miles off the coast of Cape Cod.

The New England Fishery Management Council voted in September to recommend the measure in an effort to help protect the struggling fishery.

Local fishermen and the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance supported pushing the midwater trawlers back 50 miles to avoid localized depletion.

That concept is defined as a reduction of fish population, independent of the overall status of the stock, over a relatively small area as a result of intensive overfishing.

The new buffer zone would be estimated to reduce midwater trawler revenue by about 30 percent.

The midwater trawlers, which usually work in tandem, use large nets to scoop up entire schools of herring, which local fishermen have said negatively impact the local fishing industry and related economies.

Atlantic herring is a food, or forage fish 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.

Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance CEO John Pappalardo says the restrictions now head to the National Marine Fisheries Service for review.

“I’m very confident that if all the people who helped us get a positive vote out of the council will one more time put effort in to making sure that the National Marine Fisheries Service adheres to the recommendation I am very confident we will end up with a positive result,” Pappalardo said.

Fisherman Charlie Dodge says the local industry and the public need to keep the pressure on at the political level to ensure the trawlers are pushed back.

“We’ve seen things before get to this point but even with keeping focus on it sometimes they never come to fruition,” Dodge said.

Dodge said it has been a 15-year battle.

“In the beginning when these boats arrived we knew we would be looking at this day,” Dodge said. “We no longer have a ground fishery. We don’t have any of the fisheries we used to have. We are all working on underutilized species now.”

Pappalardo said when the measure goes to the Fisheries Service for review it will provide an opportunity for the public, the Cape Cod legislative delegation and other organizations to comment on the proposed rule.

“The midwater trawl advocates and their lobby are traveling to Washington D.C. and are lobbying very hard with the leaders of the National Marine Fisheries Service and whatever politicians will listen to fight against this rule event though it got near unanimous support coastally,” Pappalardo said.

The Fishermen’s Alliance will provide up to date information on its website,, along with instructions on how and when to submit public comments.

Pappalardo expects the Atlantic herring fishery to bounce back quickly off the Cape and Islands if the rule is approved.

“If we are able to protect these spawning sites and allow these herring, what is left of them, to spawn I would expect we’d see within three to five years a much more balanced ecosystem,” he said. “And that would translate into many more opportunities for recreational and commercial fishermen.”

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