Don't Let Industrial Fishing Damage The Ocean's Health

Almost five years ago, after public outcry, fishery managers initiated a plan to address concerns about industrial trawling in New England waters and the effect these huge ships have on the marine food web.

Herring trawlers are the largest fishing vessels on the East Coast. Their football-field-size nets catch and kill millions of pounds of unintended catch every year, including depleted fish such as bluefin tuna, river herring, and shad, as well as dolphins and seabirds. River herring, an essential food for such animals as striped bass and osprey, are so depleted they are being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Now is your opportunity to stand up against industrial fishing. The New England Fishery Management Council is accepting comments on a new set of rules that could bring greater accountability and oversight.

Send a clear message today that you want meaningful reform to support a healthy, productive and sustainable ocean environment for everyone.
Dear Capt. Howard,

More than four years ago, the public called for -- and the New England Fishery Management Council committed to -- improving the management of industrial fishing in New England. Now, after several years of deliberation and tens of thousands of public comments, it's time to deliver on that promise of reform.

[Your comment will be added here]

Inadequate monitoring, unmanaged catch of river herring, continued killing of groundfish within closures designed to protect them, and the wasteful practice of dumping are significant and pressing concerns. Your revision to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan must address these issues and bring greater accountability and oversight to the industrial trawl fleet.

Since the initiation of Amendment 5, these problems have gotten worse. The National Marine Fisheries Service has repeatedly proved to be unable to enforce Atlantic herring quotas, the first step in fishery management, because of inadequate catch monitoring. In addition, the practice of slipping, or dumping, catch at sea continues to undermine efforts to identify and record everything that is caught by herring vessels. Alarming interactions with groundfish also continue, to the point that mid-water trawl fishermen recently demanded and received a five-fold increase in their haddock bycatch allowance.

Moreover, river herring populations remain depleted, forcing Atlantic seaboard states to close traditional fisheries and deprive recreational anglers and the public of this important resource. NMFS is now considering listing river herring under the Endangered Species Act.

I urge you, as a trustee of our nation's marine resources, to fulfill your duty to conserve and manage these resources sustainably by approving this long-awaited revision without further delay. In particular, I strongly support:

*A catch limit, or cap, on the total amount of river herring caught in the Atlantic herring fishery (Section 3.3.5, modified to require immediate implementation of the catch cap).

*100 percent at-sea monitoring on all mid-water trawl fishing trips in order to provide reliable estimates of all catch, including bycatch of depleted river herring and other marine life (Section Alternative 2).

*An accountability system to discourage the wasteful slippage of catch, including a fleetwide limit of five slippage events for each herring management area, after which any slippage event would require a return to port (Section Option 4D).

*A ban on herring mid-water trawling in areas established to promote rebuilding of groundfish populations (Section 3.4.4 Alternative 5).

*A requirement to accurately weigh and report all catch (Section 3.1.5 Option 2).

Thank you for the opportunity to comment and for your sustained commitment and support of these high-priority reforms.


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