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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
Local fishermen sue National Marine Fisheries Service
Cape Cod - Local fishermen are suing the National Marine Fisheries Service over deficiencies in the agency’s method of monitoring the industrial Atlantic herring midwater trawlers.
Last Wednesday, Captain Peter Taylor of Chatham filed suit against NMFS for creating a loophole in a rule that will allow herring trawlers to dump uninspected bycatch in an area that has been closed to protect troubled groundfish stocks. Closed Area 1, located southeast of the Cape and identified as a spawning ground and nursery area for juvenile cod and haddock, is currently off-limits to nearly all other fishing vessels.
In a press release, Taylor stated that herring trawlers should be held to the same standards as other fishermen, “and that means they shouldn’t be allowed to discard fish that the observers haven’t inspected properly. When I am observed, all the fish in my gear is counted, and I still fish with hooks. But herring trawl nets are massive, with way more impact, and to only observe part of their catch just isn’t right.”
The original rule proposed by NMFS was considered a “reasonable approach” to gathering more data about bycatch on midwater trawl vessels and received positive comments from the public according to the press statement issued by Earthjustice, whose attorney, Roger Fleming, is representing Taylor. But the final rule incorporated a change allowing the dumping. “The law frowns upon surprises like this one that reverse the direction of proposed rules,” Fleming stated.
In addition, last Thursday, recreational fisherman Patrick Paquette of Hyannis, who represents several recreational fishing organizations such as the Massachusetts Striped Bass Association, filed a complaint under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain an NMFS video showing footage of federal observers aboard a midwater trawl ship. The NMFS video was screened at a public meeting of the New England Fishery Management Council’s Herring Oversight Committeee, but Paquette’s attempts to obtain a copy have reportedly proven futile.
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Issues/Bycatch / discards