Groundbreaking Actions Proposed to Safeguard Atlantic Herring as Forage

Groundbreaking Actions Proposed to Safeguard Atlantic Herring as Forage
WO-team Wild Ocean Team
Published On May 18, 2018
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Make Sure New England Fishery Managers Hear Your Support!

Public comment is being sought by the New England Fishery Management Council on actions designed to better manage Atlantic sea herring for its ecological role as forage.  Atlantic herring has been described as the linchpin holding together the food web in New England waters.  Humpback whales, porpoises, seals, puffins, terns, tuna, striped bass, cod, pollock and haddock are just a few in the long list of ocean wildlife that feed on herring.

A healthy population of herring translates into healthy coastal communities.  The region’s commercial and recreational fishing and ecotourism businesses depend on having an adequate herring forage base in the water to attract and sustain predators.

Amendment 8 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan recognizes the importance of herring as prey and seeks to address two main purposes:

1.  Propose a long-term acceptable biological catch (ABC) control rule that explicitly accounts for herring’s role in the ecosystem.

2.  Address potential localized depletion of Atlantic herring to minimize possible detrimental impacts on predators of herring and associated socioeconomic impacts on other user groups.

Wild Oceans supports:

♦   ABC Control Rule Alternative 2: This option prioritizes herring predator forage needs by applying science-based guidance for managing forage stocks.  The control rule would specify catch limits designed to maintain the stock’s biomass at a level that supports a stable directed fishery while leaving a sufficient supply of herring in the water for predators.

♦   Localized Depletion and User Conflict Alternative 6 with Area Sub-option A and Seasonal Sub-option A: This combination would prohibit mid-water trawl gear inside of a buffer zone extending 50 nautical miles from shore.  The prohibition would be in place for all herring management areas throughout the year. The intent of this alternative is to conserve inshore ecosystems by reducing concentrated removals of herring. Mid-water trawl vessels are the largest vessels in the fishery, and they often work in pairs, towing a net up to 200 feet long between two vessels. Millions of herring can quickly be removed from a relatively small area, sweeping up vulnerable coastal species like river herring in the process.

Public hearings start May 22!  Download the Amendment 8 Public Hearing Document for the hearing schedule, more details about the alternatives being considered, and instructions for submitting written comments. Written comments must be submitted before 5:00 pm on Monday, June 25, 2018.