Fifty fishermen attended the Atlantic herring Amendment 8 public hearing on May 22, 2018 at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography campus. Ninety percent of all comments made (18) at the hearing were were vying for the council to recognize herring as a forage fish when considering catch limits.
Those testifying represented recreational anglers from Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The Audubon Society and ocean conservation groups were represented at the hearing as well.
The creation of a buffer zone of 25 miles where large mid water trawlers are not allowed to fish for Atlantic herring was suggested by most of those making public comment.
Steve Medeiros, president and executive director of Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association said, “We support a healthy population of Atlantic herring as it is important for the local economy, supporting commercial and recreational fishing for cod and striped bass and for ecotourism businesses like whale watching. We firmly believe that catch limits for herring that account for its role in the ecosystem are vitally important. Therefore we support Alternative 2.”
The New England Fishery Management Council scheduled a series of public hearings on Amendment 8 to the Atlantic Herring Fishery Management Plan. The purpose of the hearings is to solicit comments on the amendment’s two major components, which include alternatives to establish a long-term acceptable biological catch (ABC) control rule that account for herring’s role in the ecosystem much the same way Ecological Reference Points would work for Atlantic menhaden as discussed at the Atlantic States Marine fishing Commission for the past several years.
In additional to an ABC control rule Amendment 8 explores a number of alternatives to address potential localized depletion and user conflicts.
Greg Vespe, president of the Aquidneck Island Striper Team said, “We support a buffer zone that extends 25 miles offshore in Rhode Island and along the coast. The 25 mile buffer is important to help prevent localized depletion and user conflicts considering the major role herring plays around Block Island and Cox Ledge as forage fish for striped bass, cod, tuna, whales and other species.”
Two Massachusetts hearings are planned, one in Gloucester on Wednesday, May 30, 6:00 p.m. at the Beauport Hotel, 55 Commercial Street; and a second hearing in Chatham, MA, Tuesday, June 19, 6:00 p.m. at the Chatham Community Center, 702 Main Street.
Public hearings are also taking place in Philadelphia, PA, Tuesday, June 5, 4:00 p.m. at the Double Tree Hotel at 237 South Broad Street; and in Portland, ME on Tuesday, June 12, Holiday Inn by the Bay, 88 Spring Street at 4:00 p.m. A hearing also took place in Rockport, ME on May 24.
There is a Webinar Hearing scheduled for Wednesday, June 20, starting at 2 p.m. Registration is required to participate. In addition, a call-in option is available to join the webinar. For details see press release at https://www.nefmc.org/library/amendment-8-2.
Anglers are encouraged to send the New England Council comments via email, fax or mail advocating for the Acceptable Biological Catch (ABC) formula, and express their thoughts about buffer zones, like the 12.5, 25 and 50 mile buffer zones for mid water trawlers that are suggested in Amendment 8.
The deadline for submitting written comments is Monday, June 25 at 5:00 p.m., although earlier submissions are highly encouraged.
Label correspondence as “DEIS for Amendment 8 to the Atlantic Herring FMP” and sent to Ton Nies, Executive Director, New England Fishery Management Council, 50 Water Street, Mill 2, Newburyport, MA 01950.
The New England Council plans to address herring Amendment 8 at their September 25-27, 2018 meeting in Plymouth, MA. Anglers are encouraged to attend the meeting, more details on this as they become available.
Above are Buffer Zone Alternatives 4, 5, and 6, which could be applied year-round or seasonally, where midwater trawl gear would be prohibited inside 12 nautical mile (nm), 25 nm, or 50 nm zones in Herring Management Areas 1B, 2, and 3 from Cape Cod to the North/South Carolina border.
Rhode Island recreational anglers testifying at the New England Council Atlantic herring hearing included members of the Aquidneck Island Striper Team and the RI Saltwater Anglers Association.