Monday, September 19, 2011

Restoring River Herring Might Require Curtailing the Ocean Bycatch

The incredible amounts of silt that washed down the Hudson and Connecticut rivers after Irene probably didn't do much good for fish in those rivers. I blogged about it here, after asking Tom Lake, of the Hudson River Estuary Program, about it.

The long term affect probably won't be terrible, he told me: "that is why fish have so many thousands of progeny, to account for such unexpected losses."

Then he said, "They'll rebound, as soon as we close the coastal loopholes on their harvesting."

I let that remark pass until just now, when I saw, via Twitter, this piece, published in the Patriot-Ledger, which covers (I believe) the Quincy, Massachusetts, area. It was written by Steve Pearlman, coordinator of the Watershed Action Alliance of Southeastern Massachusetts. He wrote that efforts to restore historical spawning runs of blueback herring and alewives (such as the work Save the Sound and the state of Connecticut have been doing to build fish passages on Long Island Sound's tributaries) ...

... won’t truly succeed if river herring continue to be decimated at sea by corporate trawler fleets dragging football field size nets to catch entirely different species of fish: Atlantic herring. Their “incidental” catch of river herring is imperiling commercial and recreational fish such as cod and striped bass that depend on river herring as a key source of food.

A quarter of a million river herring were caught in a single tow by a mid-water trawler in New England in 2008, more fish than were counted in all but one Massachusetts herring run that year.

On Sept. 28, the New England Fishery Management Council meets in Danvers to vote on several approaches to minimize the accidental “bycatch” of river herring. But the few corporate fishing interests that benefit financially from ignoring the bycatch problem will try to stop the council from even considering options that could cost them a bit more to implement. Yet these very options could financially benefit small-scale commercial and recreational fishermen who are harmed by wholesale destruction of this critical part of the aquatic food chain.

The intercept fishery or bycatch fishery have been causing problems for river fish for decades.Let's hopet the fishery management council takes some action.

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