New England Fishery Management Council Update – Meeting: December 5-7, 2017

The New England Fishery Management Council met in the Viking Hotel in historic Newport Rhode Island in mid December. As always; Team Fissues was in attendance and the following are the highlights we feel our readers need to know:

Atlantic Herring:

The big news coming out of the December NEFMC meeting was the vote to send Draft Amendment 8 out to public hearing in early 2018. Amendment 8 proposes management alternatives that address two major components:

1) ABC Control Rule: This portion of the action is considering establishment of a long term “acceptable biological catch” control rule that “may explicitly account for herring’s role in the ecosystem. Many stakeholders feel that current management does not put enough emphasis on Atlantic herring’s very important role as a keystone prey species for hundreds of predator species.

2) Localized Depletion and User Conflicts. For many years, multiple stakeholder groups have claimed the industrial scale removal of “sea herring” from inshore waters changes migration patterns and presence/availability of important predator species such as striped bass, cod and tuna. These stakeholders want the industrial fleet pushed far offshore where their  super sized fishing gear was originally intended to fish.

Because much of the discussion regarding localized depletion has focused on the back side of Cape Cod and Stellwagen Bank in the Gulf of Maine; inshore protections for Southern New England, specifically along the Rhode Island coast where the industrial fleet spends much of its winter; have flown under the public radar and have generated very little support thus far.

There were pre-meeting indications of a move by the industrial fleet to eliminate any protections that effect Southern New England. Fortunately for recreational and small boat commercial anglers in CT & RI; the public hearings will include draft protections for all areas where the industrial fleet comes close to shore.  

Even better news is that during the December Mid Atlantic Council Mtg last week; the MAFMC chose not to use their management of Atlantic Mackerel as an excuse to interfere with the NEFMC action. Although this is a NEFMC Atlantic Herring action; any action by NEFMC or MAFMC that effects Atlantic herring; by its nature effects the management of Atlantic mackerel and thus requires input from the MAFMC…and vice versa. This is because of how this particular fleet operates. Simply put these industrial sized vessels (some over 165 feet) are capable of towing nets larger than a football field and have the ability to store over 1 million pounds of catch. These “mid water trawlers” carry permits for both Atlantic herring and Atlantic mackerel. Because their target species are found in the same parts of the ocean; when they leave the dock to start a trip the captain has no idea which he will catch. These operations are seeking to land over a million pounds per trip so they spend a lot of time searching for a body of fish to “harvest”. Most people new to fishery management often ask the question; why two councils and two fishery management plans where more than 90% of either species is landed by the same small fleet of under 15 vessels. Excellent Question!

Click HERE to read NEFMC’s formal press release including easy to understand charts and details of the proposed action.

All the Rest

Although the NEFMC did a lot of necessary work throughout the three day early December meeting in Newport RI; most of the work was what we at Fissues,org refer to as “middle of the process.”  Sometimes the middle of the process work is important for our readers and sometimes its simply a boring fisheries grind. That is how we view most of this past meeting.

If you are a fish nerd like us and want to read all the documents and watch all the power point presentations then follow this link to a whole stocking full of information from the meeting.


The next NEFMC meetings week will be held at the Sheraton Harborside Hotel in Portsmouth NH from January 30-February 1, 2018.