Haddock Bycatch Targets Refined in Herring Fishery

by Laurie Schreiber

 At their January meeting, the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) sought to refine management of haddock bycatch in the herring fishery.

Currently, the Groundfish Management Plan caps haddock bycatch in the herring fishery at two percent of haddock’s total allowable catch. The council initiated Framework Adjustment 46 to the plan to revisit the bycatch issue.

“I think this is an important framework,” said council member Doug Grout. “We need to make adjustments to past management action. We’re trying to make it a more reasonable cap.”

The council discussed the possibility of lowering the cap to one percent; imposing a cap on midwater trawl vessels only; applying separate caps for different stock areas and making adjustments based on observer coverage; and determining where and when haddock are most likely to occur and closing the herring fishery all together based on those areas and times.

At the same time, council members discussed the possibility of providing incentives to herring fishermen to fish in areas where or when interaction with haddock is unlikely to occur. Grout said he supported the idea of providing herring fishermen with a share of haddock catch; the herring vessel would be required to stop fishing when it reached its share.

NEFMC staffer Tom Nies said his plan development team has studied where overlap occurs between herring and haddock. “But we haven’t looked at how to identify where the closures would be and the impact that would have on the herring fishery,” Nies said.

Council member Mary Beth Tooley said the council should be wary of any proposal that might shut down the herring fishery at the height of the lobster industry’s demand for bait. Council member Rodney Avila agreed, and said he was also wary of any proposal that might keep the herring fishery from potentially catching its full quota.

One herring fisherman told the council that there was no danger of exceeding the 2 percent cap on haddock, given the routine regimen of dockside inspections of herring catches.

“There’s no danger of any bycatch getting through, if not on the boat because of observers, then on the dock,” he said. He said the current haddock cap already shuts down the herring fishery before it is able to harvest its full quota. “And we suffered financially big time,” he said. “We can’t take another financial blow like that. We will be eliminated, period.We’re not trying to catch haddock. We try to avoid it as best we can. But we do know it’s out there. To put in a two percent catch cap is humane to the herring fishery. We need to increase it at least ine percent.”

Jeff Kaelin, representing Lunt’s Fishery, said he opposed a lower cap as being contrary to the primary goal of the framework – which is to catch haddock while herring fishing. “It seems spiteful to me, honestly,” Kaelin said. “This really cuts into the herring fishery. The small amount of haddock that’s caught is negligible. The amount is infinitesimal. This is spiteful; it’s not fair management.”

Details of the framework will be developed over the next two months with a final vote planned for the April 26-28 NEFMC meeting in Mystic, Connectict. The goal is implementation late in the year when heerring interactions with haddock on Georges Bank are most likely to occur.


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