PRESERVING THE NORTHEAST FORAGE BASE
With our Taking the Bait blueprint in hand, we began working to amend the New England Council’s Atlantic herring plan in 2006. By the end of 2007 the plan was amended with a new objective that explicitly recognizes the importance of sea herring as prey. The council also implemented a near-shore closure to mid-water trawls in the Gulf of Maine where herring are scarce. Around the same time we joined a new Herring Alliance, giving a collective voice to nine regional and national groups (at the start; it’s since grown to over 30) with interests in herring as prey for cod and haddock, bluefin tuna, whales and seabirds.
After a 2007 report blaming the disappearance of river herring on at-sea bycatch in the sea herring and mackerel trawl fisheries, NCMC’s Pam Gromen played a leading role in efforts at the ASMFC to amend the interstate River Herring & Shad FMP to get greater instate protection of these anadromous species in their rivers of origin and calling on federal councils to reduce mortality while the fish are out in the ocean. Pam serves as chair of the river herring advisory panel. Because of the need for federal action, in 2009 we successfully got river herring bycatch reduction included as an objective in new amendments to the Atlantic herring and mackerel FMPs covering the offshore trawl fisheries.
In December 2010, the NCMC laid out the case for preserving the northeast forage base in a 44-page report. The purpose of Preserving the Northeast Forage Base: Opportunities to Advance Ecosystem-based Management of Fisheries in the U.S. Atlantic, was 6 to outline NCMC’s forage work plan on the east coast and to assist the fishing and environmental communities in evaluating opportunities for advocacy in the conservation of forage fish. It features an extensive overview of Northeast forage fisheries (shad and river herring, menhaden, mackerel, squid and butterfish, and sea herring), including recent issues and actions at the New England and Mid-Atlantic Councils as well as at the ASMFC, and an in-depth discussion of obstacles and opportunities along with specific recommendations for short- and long term action.
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