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September 01, 2004
The recent bycatch of tens of thousands of pounds of juvenile haddock by the mid-water herring fleet is a travesty of justice. The New England groundfish fleet is fighting for their lives to survive the rebuilding of the groundfish stocks while the fleet of mid-water herring boats is allowed to decimate the rebuilding stocks of haddock, cod and who knows what else.
Although the mid-water fleet and the enforcement agencies seem to be talking down the bycatch by referring to percentages, percentages mean squat when their fishing capacities range over a million pounds. Two percent of a million pounds is 20,000 pounds of juvenile fish when there is supposed to be a zero tolerance. Two of the recent ‘incidents’ had 46,000 pounds of bycatch of juvenile haddock.
Let’s do the math: 46,000 pounds of age zero haddock (4 oz.each) translates into 184,000 fish. A legal size haddock is five pounds this translates into 920,000 pounds of legal size haddock lost, worth $1,198,000 from just two boats, two trips. There are according to industry reports 10 mid-water boats presently fishing. How many more haddock are we losing to those boats?
The corporate spokesperson for the mid-water fleet, Mary Beth Tooley, remarked in a recent press release that, “their method of fishing, makes the discard of unwanted species problematic.” It’s more than problematic; it’s illegal, unjustifiable and immoral. Ask a groundfisherman who’s losing his boat if 46,000 pounds of haddock bycatch is only problematic.
Another statement by the spokesperson was, “historical information on bycatch in the herring fishery has shown insignificant interaction with groundfish species.” If you go back through the NEFMC meeting records, you will find the bycatch problem has been raised with mid-water boats since 1998. Excuse me, but I think I am choking on a red herring.
The spokesperson said about the recent bycatch problem on Georges Bank, “juvenile haddock mixing with herring made it difficult for mid-water boats fishing on Georges to avoid bycatch.” If it’s that difficult for mid-water boats to stay out of bycatch then I’d say, get rid of them and reimburse the groundfish industry for the haddock that they are losing.
The corporate spokesperson seems to imply that it is the haddock’s problem for being in the way. Sorry, Ms. Tooley, but this is not a haddock attack. The problem is not the fish the problem is the boats.