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One Fish- Two Fisheries
June 01, 2005
A winch on shore wound in the thick cable that hauled the 70-foot-long sardine carrier Jacob Pike, up onto the rails in Rockland, Maine, last summer. Salt water dripped off the venerable old boat as she awaited a coat of paint. Her owner, Dana Rice, a lobster dealer from Winter Harbor and a member of the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC), looked over the Pike. She had survived over half a century of changes in the fishery. But the last decade, which has seen the advent of mid-water trawling, increasing bycatch problems and a steady movement toward resource privatization in the form of individual quotas (ITQs), has challenged Maine’s traditional herring harvesters more than any other.
With the crash of groundfish stocks in the early 1990’s, burgeoning herring stocks gained critical importance. Ports from Cape May, NJ, to Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick modernized their pelagic fleets and processing plants in order to tap a herring biomass that U.S. scientists claim has reached 1.8 million tons. However, herring landings have remained relatively static, at around 100,000 tons annually, with most of the fish coming from off the coast of Maine. Increasing competition for those fish has turned herring management into one of the most complex balancing acts faced by the NEFMC. As the council works on Amendment 1 to the herring fishery management plan, a growing number of interested parties have raised concerns regarding the status of the stock, ground fish and marine mammal bycatch, and the environmental impacts of mid-water trawling.