FISHERIES: Hey! Hands Off of My Herring! >

Nets the Width of Football Fields and Five Stories Tall
By Dan Shapley

Originally appeared in:

If for you, the word “fishing” conjures images of a solitary figure casting over a placid lake, hold onto your nightcrawlers.A new report by the Herring Alliance (yes, there is a Herring Alliance) details the destructiveness of factories on the water, which are using nets the width of football fields and five stories tall to net 150 million pounds of herring and uncounted millions of pounds of other fish that inadvertently swim past the fine-mesh nets. All this is happening right off the coast of New England, and according to the report, the industry is under-policed but for nearly 15 years has had an oversized impact on the coastal ecosystem and fishing economy.

That’s not just because other folks would like to catch herring, but also because herring are an important part of the food chain; whales, seabirds, striped bass and tuna rely on the large schools of small, oily fish. Herring are also eaten by cod, haddock and other groundfish, and used as bait by lobstermen and other commercial fishermen. (Those canned sardines in the grocery store? That’s herring.)

“With little federal oversight and almost no accountability, mid-water trawlers have operated in the shadows for too long,” said Earthjustice attorney Roger Fleming, a contributor to the report. “The current rules undermine efforts to protect the New England fish stocks and preserve a livelihood for future generations of fishermen.”

All told, herring make possible a $1 billion fishing industry. And, as Earthjustice points out, that figure doesn’t include ecotourists spending a few bucks to take whale-watching cruises, which are dependent on whales, which are dependent on – you guessed it – herring

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