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One boat's bycatch is another's real catch
September 01, 2004
Haddock, cod, whales, seabirds, harbor porpoises, and many other species are known to eat fish such as herring as part of their diet.
Could the industrial-scale extraction of prey fish such as herring be depriving their predators of the abundance they need to reach and/or maintain healthy populations?
Globally, fishing for small prey fish by mid-water trawlers has been on the rise. As fish further up on the food chain have become commercially scarce, small prey fish available in large schools offer the industrial trawlers the last sources for the large amounts of fish they need to fill their holds.
To protect herring predators’ dietary needs, as well as prevent their bycatch by the mid-water trawl fleet, repeated recommendations were made to the various management and political bodies during the herring FMP’s development. But, fisheries managers, claiming “historically robust” herring populations, insisted no other measure than setting a total catch limit for the entire fleet was necessary.
This single species, myopic approach to dealing with fisheries is one of the main reasons fisheries around the world are in a constant state of crisis.
Groundfish fishermen should worry that one day their directed catch might be reallocated to the mid-water and pair trawlers to justify their bycatch.
It would be a shame, if, after all the effort put into restoring groundfish stocks to commercially healthy levels to accommodate the region’s grounded groundfish boats, fishing communities waiting to return to their fishing grounds were to find out that their catch was wasted before they could even leave the dock.