Vol. 14, No. 5 - May 2009 News & Comment for and by the Fishermen of Maine      SUBSCRIBE NOW!!
 Homepage    Archives    Subscriptions    Advertising
Herring Trawlers Scrutinized for Groundfish Bycatch
by Laurie Schreiber

Herring midwater trawlers fishing in sensitive areas closed to groundfishing are under attack for the groundfish bycatch that ends up in their nets.

The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC)l this month decided to put observers on all midwater trawlers fishing in groundfish Closed Area 1 in order to get more definitive information on just how much groundfish is being taken.

In November 2008, NEFMC discussed concerns arising on the part of the public regarding reported bycatch in the midwater trawl herring fishery in groundfish closed areas, particularly Closed Area 1 (CA1). Haddock was the biggest concern.

NEFMC asked National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Regional Adminstrator Pat Kurkul to look at observed haddock and other groundfish bycatch in the closed areas, and to determine whether herring access requirements were being met.

Vessels fishing with herring midwater trawl gear are authorized to access CA1.

However, if the bycatch of groundfish exceeds, or is likely to exceed, 1 percent of herring and mackerel harvested, by weight, in the fishery or by any individual fishing operation, NMFS may place restrictions on individual fishing operations or suspend any or all midwater trawl activities in the closed areas.


Ground fishermen have been pushed to the edge of survival by regulations. After years of asking the council to address herring trawler bycatch of ground fish, fishermen are being heard. Herring trawlers taking groundfish in areas closed to ground fishermen has been documented. NEFMC member David Pierce said, “So I struggle with this, I struggle with the comments being provided by groundfishermen” because there is no clear indication of just how much groundfish is being caught by midwater trawlers. A small percentage of herring trips have been observed. © Photo by Sam Murfitt

Thar She Blows
by Mike Crowe

Nantucket was the first and largest of the few whaling centers in America. A low island ten miles off the south coast of Cape Cod with soils too thin for agriculture, the people of Nantucket by the 1700s had jumped on the commercial prospects of whaling with a passion. By that time Quakers dominated religious and social life on the island and while nonviolence and brotherhood were central to their religious beliefs, it was whale hunting that made them zealots. There were few other commercial options on the island and none came close to the profit margins in whale oil. It would make Nantucket a one industry town.

Before English settlers arrived in North America, the Wampanogs of southern New England were hunting whales. They used sick and beached whales, cutting them up for food and using body parts to make various implements. But they also hunted them inshore from canoes using a type of harpoon. Once struck, a group of canoes participated in the killing of the giant. Saving for a rainy day for the Indians was food set aside for the winter. Converting resources, grain or oil, into storable cash was not a part of Indian economics.


Skull from a 60+ foot Fin whale. The sperm whale that attacked the Essex was about 85 feet long and weighed 80 tons. The battering ram front end, with the cushioning from the large oil cavity its head, made them potentially dangerous to whaling ships, but they seldom were. Whale boats, on the other hand, were regularly dumped, crushed or taken on a “Nantucket sleigh ride” that could reach 25mph after the whale had been harpooned. NOAA photo