August 21, 2008

Governor Supports Monitoring Improvements in the Herring and Mackerel Fisheries By Signing the Energy and Environmental Bond Bill, Says Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association


Contact: Tom Rudolph, +1-508-776-8056, or Lara Slifka, +1-508- 945-2432, both of Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association

CHATHAM, Mass., Aug. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Energy and Environmental Bond Bill (H5054) has been signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick and includes a provision to create a groundbreaking monitoring program for landings in the herring and mackerel fisheries. The provision, sponsored by State Representative Sarah Peake, and supported by Senator Robert OLeary and many other members of the general court, will provide fisheries managers with critical tools they need to effectively manage the herring and mackerel fisheries, tools that are currently unavailable in New England despite their success in other U.S. fisheries.

Section 2300-1708 of the Energy and Environmental Bond Bill authorizes the Governor to create a rigorous, scientific, and modern shore-based monitoring program for the herring and mackerel fleets based on successful models from Alaska and other regions, and also authorizes him to appropriate $750,000 to the Division of Marine Fisheries to administer the program. It also provides for guidance from the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission, and will give fishery managers, for the first time, accurate information on how much fish is being landed and its species composition.

Herring and mackerel are targeted in New England by very large fishing vessels that offload vast quantities of fish in a unique fashion - by pumping it through large hoses directly into fish plants or trucks. Such high-volume, high-throughput fisheries present unique monitoring challenges and the new law will give managers, dealers and fishermen the help they need to rise to those challenges, including special weighing techniques, shore-based observers, and the flexibility to tailor the program to each individual fishing businesses needs.

Such robust monitoring is particularly vital in the herring and mackerel fisheries because of ongoing bycatch concerns that are difficult to accurately measure under existing regulations. And the program is particularly timely due to current concerns and state policies regarding the bycatch of anadromous fish like river herring. These fish, including blueback herring and alewives, are at historic low abundance. In fact they are currently off-limits in Massachusetts with the exception of a tolerance that includes the herring and mackerel vessels. The herring and mackerel fisheries have been known to catch river herring and are considered as one of the reasons for their decline.

The tolerance is currently not enforceable: the state does not know how much they actually catch because only a small percentage of vessels are monitored. This leaves management guessing the extent of their impact on an already declining stock.

SOURCE Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association

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