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Other Sea Animals
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Wandering Birder

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Herring Fishing, Mid-water Trawlers and Whales and Birds on Jeffreys Ledge, NH

E-mail by Emmalee Tarry to NH Birds 9/22/2009

I have been pelagic birding and whale watching off the New England coast since
the mid 1980. While I was gone most of this summer, I did make three trips
out to Jeffreys Ledge. To my surprise it was a spectacular season for birds
and whales on Jeffreys Ledge. The best I have ever seen on Jeffreys Ledge and
comparable to the legendary trips to Stellwagen Bank in the 1980's . I have
tried to collect reports from organized trips and individual trips on my web
page http://neseabirds.com
Why is Jeffreys Ledge and surroundings suddenly so productive? Unless you
believe in the tooth fairy, something has to have changed out there. The
captain of a whale watch mentioned changes in the Herring Fishery as a
possible explanation. So I went looking to find out what I could.
Nothing is easy about the ocean. The relationship between large Cetaceans and
tiny Herring does not lend itself to simple answers and my efforts do not
represent a scientific study. Relationships between Federal and State
Regulatory bodies are equally hard to understand. Does a Herring know when it
is federal waters as opposed to state waters?
Herring is fished for bait for Lobster, Blue Crab, and Tuna and is also canned
for human consumption as sardines. I don't know of any commercial sardine
canning in New England ( even famous Cannery Row in Monterey, Ca is for
tourists now) but I believe foreign sources buy Herring from Amerian
Here is what I found out by calling a source in Washington in the Marine
Fisheries (something). In 2006 the limit for Herring landing in Area 1 A (
Gulf of Maine) was dropped from 58 metric tons to 45 metric tons and this was
maintained through this year. After the total limit is reached the fishery is
closed for the season.
In addition to limiting the total catch for the year, there was also a limit
as to how much could be caught by one boat on some days. This limit was
something called "days out". So 5 days a week, a boat could only land 2,000
pounds. On the other days there was no limit. What the days out limit did
was to spread out the fishing over the season so that fresh bait would be
available to the lobster fishermen.
It is possible that overall allowable total of Herring will be reduced further
for 2010 perhaps to 1/2 of the current limit of 45 metric tons.
Perhaps more important to the whale watching industry is that mid-water
trawlers were prohibited in 2007 - 2009 until October 1 of the year. The
mid-water trawlers use two boats to drag a huge net through the water. This
not only catches a large number of fish, but disrupts the schools of Herring.
Whales especially need the Herring to school because they need to swim along
with their mouth open and catch as many fish as possible. If the Herring
schools are disrupted, the whales must go elsewhere. The purse seine
fishermen claim that once the schools are disrupted by the mid-water trawlers
they do not regroup.
On October 1 the season for mid-water trawlers will open. I think it is
important for bird watchers and whale watchers to continue going out to
Jeffreys Ledge to ascertain the impact of the open season for mid-water
trawlers. If you go out, ask the captain to inform you of any mid-water
trawlers that he has seen recently. Take pictures if you see one. Then be
sure to report the bird and whale results of your trip to NH Birds.
Finally, I ask Who speaks up for the wildlife watching industry? The Purse
Seiners and the Mid-water Trawlers have their lobby organizations. While
depleted stocks of herring on Jeffreys Ledge will send the whales and birds
elsewhere. Birders and wildlife watchers cannot always follow and we too
contribute to the economy of New Hampshire.
Some web links with helpful information.


Response from Peter Baker on 9/24/09 Regards the Herring Alliance

Please go to this web site and view the video.  It says it all

I am the right person as I run Pew's New England herring campaign. I will forward this to our associate Greg Wells (cc'd) so he can follow up with Emmalee (cc'd). Much of our herring work in New England is through the Pew led Herring Alliance, which can be found at www.herringalliance.org 

Thank you!
Peter Baker, Manager
New England Fisheries Campaigns
Pew Environment Group
1632 Orleans Road
Harwich, MA 02645


Honest By Catch
HonestByCatch was created out of the concern surrounding the incidental capture of non-targeted marine life in the industrial Atlantic herring midwater trawl fishery.

Evidence shows these oversized corporate operations dump hundreds of thousands of dead and dying cod, haddock, river herring, striped bass and marine mammals back into the sea.

Visit www.honestbycatch.com to find out more about the issue and how to get involved.