Healthy oceans are only possible with healthy ecosystems. Maintaining the robust fish populations upon which we depend for food and recreation requires protection of their food source. This means protecting the entire oceanic food web. Little fish are hugely important to big fish yet they’re often overlooked in conservation efforts when tuna and whales take center stage. However, recent reform by Mid-Atlantic and New England fishery mangers means a big victory for little fish and increased protection for our oceans. This victory took years of advocacy to accomplish, and will help ensure there’s plenty to eat for the big fish we love.
Last month, Mid-Atlantic and New England fishery managers approved plans to comprehensively reform industrial fishing off the Northeast and Mid Atlantic coasts. Key outcomes include a call for 100 percent at-sea monitoring on midwater trawlers and the first-ever federal protections for river herring and shad in the ocean. Greenpeace has been an active member of the Herring Alliance, a coalition of NGOs working to reform these fisheries for several years. Many of you took action and contributed to this effort. With support from Greenpeace and our members, the Pew Environment Group led this victory.
What happened in New England
On Wednesday, June 20, the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) voted on five key measures in the Atlantic herring fishery. The managers passed a recommendation for 100 percent at-sea observer coverage on industrial trawlers, a plan to weigh all catch brought to shore in the fishery, and measures requiring observers sample bycatch before it is discarded at sea. Although the council failed to prohibit midwater trawlers from areas closed to groundfish fishermen, they did insert new rules requiring accountability when the ships fish in closed areas. Depite the inability of the NEFMC to pass a cap on the incidental catch of river herring, it committed to do so as soon as possible.
What happened in the Mid-Atlantic
On Thursday, June 14, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council voted to recommend 100 percent at-sea observer coverage on industrial mackerel trawlers and to implement an annual limit on catch of river herring and shad throughout the mackerel fishery in the region by 2014.
This victory shows what we can do when we take on destructive industrial fishing interests. We’ve already made great progress. With Greenpeace leading we will also win in the Bering Sea with protections of the Bering Sea canyon habitats- again, small critters that anchor an entire foodweb.
What you can do
Be part of our next victory. Check out our current exploration of the Bering Sea canyons as we gather more evidence to convince the North Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council to protect these fragile and important habitat areas of the Bering Sea.