since 2009

Meeting on River Herring and Mackerel

Our friend at the Pew Environmental Group, Jamie Pollack, asked me to give a heads up to anyone who is available to come to a meeting on commercial river herring and mackerel fishing. I know a lot of you guys use bunker as your go-to bait, but river herring and mackerel comprise a big part of the ecosystem for the fish we like to catch and unfortunately, commercially, the fishery is not well monitored. As you might remember, the Pew Environmental Group was instrumental in getting bunker better protected, and here is another issue that affects our fishery that needs awareness and accountability. The meeting on the amendment regarding these two species is on Monday, May 15 at the Hyatt Place Long Island in Riverhead. The meeting will take place from 7-9pm. If anyone is able to go, please contact Jamie at jamielynnpollack*at*gmail.com.

Below are the particulars of Pew’s position. It’s important to note that, like bunker, there’s a small fleet of vessels that are responsible for 70+ percent of the catch and incidental bycatch waste. It’s also important to see that river herring, also known as shads, are close to being on the endangered species list, which is crazy to think about when they always seemed such a boundless resource—but I guess that’s what got them in this state to begin with.

General:

* This Amendment was initiated two years ago to deal with the incidental catch and general management of river herring and shad in the squid and Atlantic mackerel fisheries. The Amendment has three purposes: implement effective river herring and shad catch monitoring; reduce river herring and shad bycatch and total catch; and consider measures for better federal (ocean) management of river herring and shad and whether there should be direct management by the Council.

* Mackerel and squid trawlers are poorly monitored, allowing these ships to severely impact the marine food web.

* Up to 165 feet long, mackerel trawlers are some the largest vessels on the East Coast. Their football field-sized nets catch and kill millions of pounds of unintended catch every year, including depleted fish such as river herring, shad, bluefin tuna, cod, and haddock, and striped bass, as well as whales, dolphins, and seabirds. 

* Specific concerns with the squid and mackerel fisheries include inadequate monitoring, unmanaged catch of river herring and shad, and the wasteful practice of dumping catch at sea.

* These industrial trawlers undermine the river herring and shad resource that is an essential food source to animals like striped bass and osprey, to the point that river herring is currently being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The most recent river herring stock assessment concluded that they are depleted and need fisheries management.
This is unacceptable and represents a significant setback in the ongoing efforts to restore river herring and shad. Every year, states and communities throughout the region invest significant time and resources to restore their river herring and shad runs. Many tireless citizens carefully shepherd migrating river herring and shad past in-river obstacles by hand.  The Council must not undermine these efforts.

Critical Alternatives That Must Be Approved in Amendment 14:
* Incorporation of river herring and shad as stocks within the federal fishery management plan for Atlantic mackerel, squid and butterfish. This action would afford river herring and shad direly needed conservation and management measures in federal waters.
 
* A cap, or limit, on river herring and shad catch in federal waters.
 
* 100 percent at-sea monitoring on all mid-water trawl fishing trips, including assigning one observer to each vessel in a pair trawl operation. This fleet of approximately 20 mid-water trawl vessels is responsible for over 70% of combined river herring and shad incidental catch. 
 
* An accountability system to discourage the wasteful slippage, or dumping, of unsampled catch. All catch must be made available to fishery observers for systematic sampling. 
 
* A requirement to weigh all catch.

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