01/23/2011 - Your Jan. 18 article, "Herring fishery caught in rules web," contains factual inaccuracies and is misleading.
All of Georges Bank is currently open to midwater trawlers, including areas closed to the groundfish fleet. Industrial herring trawlers have only caught 78.8 percent of their haddock bycatch cap, which runs through April and will be renewed on May 1. With the renewal of the fishing year only a few months away, the fleet still has an ample 20 percent of the cap left — hardly an emergency.
Furthermore, as Norpel's Eoin Rochford stated, this fleet spends winters fishing for mackerel, not for herring.
Industrial midwater trawlers were allowed to fish in New England, including in areas closed to groundfishermen, on the claim that their huge nets were incapable of catching any groundfish at all. But that proved false. These vessels have been documented by federal observers with tows containing tens of thousands of pounds of groundfish, prompting them to go the New England Fishery Management Council to demand an allotment of haddock.
The herring industry specifically asked the council for the haddock bycatch cap and an exemption from the minimum size restrictions, allowing them to catch juvenile haddock that are off limits to the groundfish fleet. However, they are now demanding even more haddock bycatch, and the facts don't support that demand.
Haddock are an important resource for the future of New England's groundfish fleet. Allowing industrial herring trawlers to catch more of them as juveniles only to be thrown overboard dead is a bad idea. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke made the right decision.
Peter Baker is the manager of the Pew Environment Group's New England Fisheries Campaigns.