Herring trawlers will have monitors onboard to assess catches. (Photo: Gma.org)
NEFMC votes to put monitors onboard herring trawlers
Friday, June 22, 2012, 03:40 (GMT + 9)
Independent monitors will soon start taking trips with big trawlers to evaluate catches and whether trawling is wiping out certain kinds of groundfish. The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) approved the on-board monitoring this week.
Big herring boats -- midwater trawlers -- bring in hundreds of thousands of pounds of herring for use as bait to catch lobster, tuna and other fish and to be sold for human consumption.
"Herring has probably been under-observed for numbers of years," stated NEFMC Spokesperson Patricia Fiorelli, MPBN reports.
But the tide is about to turn. Fiorelli says that's about to change.
It is important to maintain sustainable populations of herring because the species, apart from being lucrative for the fishing industry, feeds other species in the Gulf of Maine. Thus, green groups and smaller-scale fishers have long worried that these huge trawlers are depleting the herring fishery and thus endangering other species, all while generating great amounts of bycatch.
"Striped bass, cod and haddock; marine mammal species like whales, porpoises and dolphins; tuna, like bluefin tuna -- these industrial trawlers catch some of those important species, along with the herring, and kill them," explained Peter Baker, who runs the Northeast Fisheries Programmes for the Pew Environment Group, which has pushed for stricter monitoring on such trawlers.
"So by having a monitor on each boat, documenting what they catch and what they kill, we'll be able to know in the future how to reduce the amount of what we call 'bycatch' of these other species that are being caught up and killed," Baker continued.
Notably, large-scale herring fishers have long insisted that the amount of bycatch is nominal and that there is no reliable evidence their boats are harming either the fishing industry or the marine ecosystem, Associated Press reports.
Critics of the NEFMC’s decision say it will only prove that they are right.
The new monitoring rule will go into force in spring 2013.
By Natalia Real