CHOIR: Coalition for the Atlantic Herring Fishery's Orderly, Informed, and Responsible Long-Term Development


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6/20 USAP discussion and the need to prioritize herring.

June 24, 2007

CHOIR Update

At the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) meeting this week, the NEFMC decided to wait to address the USAP observer issue in full until the November meeting. Before the meeting, NMFS attempted to clarify the issue of whether or not a USAP vessel in the herring fishery is required to carry observers. At the meeting, questions were asked and it was clear that NMFS was not able to answer the questions sufficiently and so the Council decided to formally request that the agency research the issue and report back at a future meeting (likely November).

It appears that USAP vessels are required to carry observers but only when asked. They are not required right now to carry observers all the time though, something that CHOIR and many others believe should be the case.

Once again, it was shown that the managers do not even know the full rules regarding USAP vessels and it was disappointing to see the real discussion once again postponed.

It all goes to show that this herring fishery is not being managed properly. And if managers do not even know the rules, then how could they possibly be enforced.

There was an overwhelming show of support for the NEFMC to make herring a priority again so that many glaring problems with its management can be addressed. (The Council took herring off the list of priorities this year back in November)

Hundreds of comments were received from the public, asking for the Council to make herring a priority next year. David Pierce mentioned that the large number of comments showed that everyone is concerned with the way the herring fishery is being managed.

It should be quite clear to all the managers that the public is worried and that the only option should be to bring herring back onto the priority list next year. Thanks to all those who spoke up, your comments will go a long way towards bringing the Council to action in the coming months.

It will be very crucial that when it comes time that people really speak up and show the managers that herring is far too important to put on the back burner. While we all appreciate the amount of work that is going into the groundfish regulations, herring has to be addressed.

Many people believe that without proper herring management, groundfish and whiting and all other stocks are doomed anyways. Hopefully the Council and NMFS will understand this when it comes time to set priorities for next year. The public has spoken once again and it is time that the managers listened.

Some appear to believe that the Gulf of Maine purse seine/fixed gear only zone (‘buffer zone’) was enough to ensure healthy herring stocks, but that is not the case. There is much more that needs to be done and in order to do this herring must be addressed.

The Gulf of Maine has been healthier this summer (so far) than it has been since before midwater trawlers began fishing this area in the nineties. It is clear that removing midwater herring trawlers from the area has done wonders for the ecosystem and those who rely on it. Unlike the last 10 years, herring can be found throughout the inshore area, along with the birds, whales, tuna and groundfish that feed on it.

Never before has it been so clear that a year-round, coastwide, 50 mile buffer zone free of midwater trawling is the necessary step as we move forward.

That is only one example of why the Council and NMFS need to prioritize herring for next year.

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