Herring Trawlers Draw Ire from Cape Cod Fishermen

Herring Trawlers Exceed Quota by 60 Percent
Herring catch, photo Wikimedia.

ecoRI.com: Cape Cod fishermen may be on their way to some relief from sharing inshore fishing grounds with midwater herring trawling, a practice they say is threatening their livelihoods. But a persistent lack of data on the impact of the trawls may hamper efforts to regulate them.

On Aug. 17, the Herring Oversight Committee of the New England Fisheries Management Council voted to send the council two options for establishing a buffer zone prohibiting mid-water trawling off Cape Cod. The zone would extend either 12 miles or 35 miles from shore — significantly farther than the 6-mile zone proposed by the herring industry and closer than the 50-mile mark sought by environmental groups. The council will consider the options when it meets in September.

Fishermen have been complaining for years about the industrial-sized ships landing on the back side of Cape Cod, scooping up millions of pounds of herring and leaving, they say, a temporary ocean “bio-desert” in their wake.

In 2015, the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance collected hundreds of comments and individual letters from fisherman about the phenomenon called “localized depletion” — defined as “when harvesting takes more fish than can be replaced locally or through fish migrating into the catch area within a given time period.”

For those who fish for bluefin tuna, striped bass, dogfish, and are still recovering from drastic cuts to allowable catches of groundfish such as cod, competing with the large ships doesn’t feel like a fair fight.

“We have a problem on the backside of the Cape,” said striped bass fisherman Patrick Paquette at the recent committee hearing. “We have big industrial boats fishing in shallow water.”

Read more about the herring trawlers that are fishing in shallow water off the Outer Cape.