Herring industry struggles with haddock cap; Area 1B concerns

PORTLAND, ME – Prompted by a request from industry, the New England Fishery Management Council in mid-June considered but rejected a motion seeking emergency action regarding the haddock catch cap that is expected to constrain the herring midwater trawl fleet on Georges Bank by early fall.

The council also discussed – in painstaking detail – the quota overage that occurred in Area 1B in May and voted to charge its herring committee with developing alternatives to “consider revising” management area boundaries to “better facilitate adherence to herring sub-ACLs” and “address the impacts of concentrated fishing on inshore areas along the backside of Cape Cod.”

Both issues were difficult and emotionally charged for supporters and opponents alike.

Speaking broadly about it all, council member Dave Preble of Rhode Island said, “I don’t know what the answer is here, but clearly there’s a problem and this has to be settled.  This constant fighting with the herring fishery is going beyond the point of absurdity.”

The debate took place on June 19 at the tail end of the council’s three-day meeting in Portland.  First up was the request for emergency action.  Maine council member Mary Beth Tooley, who recused herself from the final vote, presented the industry’s case.

As it stands now, the herring midwater trawl fleet is limited to 1% of the US acceptable biological catch (ABC) for Georges Bank haddock.  This 1% – minus a bit to account for management uncertainty – becomes the haddock quota or sub-annual catch limit (sub-ACL) for the herring midwater trawl fishery on Georges.

Tooley explained that, if 2014 bycatch ratios remain similar to what they were in 2012 and 2013, the herring fishery will reach this year’s haddock catch cap by September, forcing a closure of the Area 3 herring fishery.

The 2014 haddock cap is 179 metric tons (mt), down significantly from the 286-mt cap for 2012 and the 273-mt cap for 2013.  The current 179 mt is likely to be reduced even further to 167 mt to account for a 12-mt overage of the 2013 cap…


Read the rest and much, much more in the August issue of Commercial Fisheries News.

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