10/25/2010 - In Don Cuddy's story "Decline in river herring sparks debate, lawsuit" (Oct. 2), Mike Armstrong of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, who is a member of the Herring Plan Development Team, states, "The herring fleet takes 700,000 pounds of river herring as bycatch, about a million-and-a-half fish." If the DMF knows the size of the bycatch, then why have managers dragged their feet over setting a bycatch cap for the midwater trawl sea herring fleet? If the number is known, it should be capped.
The DMF can no longer claim there is no scientific basis for a river herring cap when one of its members knows exactly how much of this fish midwater trawlers kill each year. In fact, if Armstrong's statements are accurate, that would explain why the herring industry has fought so hard against a cap.
Industrial herring trawlers are required to report their river herring bycatch on their vessel trip reports. This data could be used to set a cap on river herring catch, just as reported catch has been used to set sea herring and mackerel catch levels (which is dependent, of course, on cooperation with federal regulation).
Armstrong's comments undermine the claim that because there is no river herring stock assessment, there cannot be a bycatch cap for industrial trawlers. Further delays will only decrease the chances that depleted river herring have to rebuild.