04/01/2012 - New England's historic fishing industry doesn't spare much of its romance for the herring.
The tiny fish is, at most, a foot long. The price per pound often won't even buy 12 minutes at a Boston parking meter. Some people eat it pickled, but herring is mainly caught to become bait for more popular seafood, such as lobster.
The herring, though, is deeply important to fishermen and environmentalists, who are fighting to put greater restrictions on trawlers that pull up hundreds of thousands of pounds of herring at a time.
They argue that the large trawlers are depleting a species that's a critical food for just about every prized commercial fish in the region, from cod to striped bass. The herring's influence even extends to ocean tours, which depend on abundant herring to attract whales and birds to the ocean surface to feed and be seen.
The depletion of herring stocks could have numerous implications, fishermen and environmentalist say. Bait costs would rise for the region's lucrative lobster industry. Without herring to chase and eat, game and commercial fish could fade from inshore waters. Struggling species, such as cod, could fail to rebound without this key food.
"Herring are a vital food source for cod and many other species," said Jud Crawford of the Pew Environment Group. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to get the idea that if you're pulling out one of the major food sources (for cod) ... you're at least decreasing the chances of recovery."
Read the full Associated Press article, Fishermen, Environmentalists Worry Massive Trawlers Depleting the Humble Atlantic Herring, on Business Week's website.