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Herring fishery greatly exceeds inshore quota in May

June 10, 2007

Takes 3,264 metric tons more than allowed from inshore; overage will be deducted from later in the season when the lobster industry in New England needs it most.

The herring fishery is supposedly managed by area-specific Total Allowable Catches (TACs), meaning that it is only allowed a certain amount of fish from each of the 4 management areas each year.

Because of the fleet’s tendency to fish as hard as possible inshore (Area 1A), they are only allowed to catch 5,000 metric tons before June 1st. This is done in part to prolong the season- to slow down the catch so that the lobster industry, which relies on fresh herring bait from inshore, does not heat up until late summer and fall. In theory, the pre-June quota ensures bait when it is needed most.

Unfortunately, the herring fleet is not montitored properly and this was seen very clearly when the fleet recently surpassed the pre-June quota inshore by a staggering 3,264 mt; 8,264 mt was landed while they were only allowed 5,000 mt. That’s more than 7,000,000 pounds of herring that was not, in theory, supposed to be taken.

You would think that if the managers were going to use quotas in the herring fishery that they would enforce them. Apparently not. Because of a slow and ineffective system of monitoring, the fleet was allowed to catch far more than allowed in May.

What happens next?

The overage of 3,264 mt will be deducted from the overall quota in 1A, meaning that there will be 3,264 less mt available for the lobster fleet when they need it the most.

Because the lobster fishery in New England certainly does not need 8,264 mt pre-June, the herring midwater trawl fleet sold much of the herring taken to Canada. We often hear from the trawl fleet that they care about US lobstermen, yet this massive overage will have a very direct, negative impact on the availability and price of lobster bait for New England lobster fleet.

Fishery managers have failed to properly monitor the herring trawler fleet; allowing 3,264 mt of overage is a massive overage- especially when you consider the quota is only 5,000 mt. If the fleet can go so far over, what is the use of quotas?

And at the same time, the herring fleet, particularly the midwater trawlers, have shown that when it comes to looking out for the interests of New England lobstermen, much of it is just talk. By taking all of this herring when the lobster fleet here does not need it, and sending it to Canada and elsewhere, they have effectively made it so lobstermen will be facing bait shortages during the prime lobster season, and will be paying more for the bait they can find.

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