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Odd alliance is formed over access to herring

July 03, 2012

Odd Alliance Is Formed Over Access To Herring
New York Times
July 3rd, 2012

PORTLAND, Me. There is no great love between Glenn Robbins, a bright-eyed third-generation fisherman, and the environmental lobby. Mr. Robbins grew up trapping Atlantic herring in cotton nets strung up in craggy coves off the Gulf of Maine. These days, he casts a net off a 104-foot boat, but catch restrictions limit those trips to twice a week, he says.

If he can’t go out for herring, he fishes for lobster, and he serves as a deacon in a Baptist church. Mr. Robbins is a staunch skeptic of global warming.

So it was supremely odd, he said, to find himself working with advocacy organizations like the Pew Environment Group as the New England Fishery Management Council recently imposed new regulations on the herring fishery.

The issue at hand was about 30 large boats that use nets as big as a football field to scoop up hundreds of thousands of pounds of herring, a cheap fish often used for bait. Called midwater trawlers, they fish at a much higher volume than the purse seine nets used by operators of herring boats like Mr. Robbins’s, and they account for 98 percent of the roughly 100,000 tons of herring caught annually in New England waters, according to the council.

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