View Full Version : Midwater trawl dumping Jeffries Ledge

08-19-2006, 09:57 PM
From email.

I have confirmed through personal conversations with two tuna captains with direct observation of a massive dumping of dead herring, whale codfish, haddock and, at least, one seal on the Northern End of Jeffries Ledge on July 19 in the late afternoon. In my conversations with the reporting captains, I insisted there be no embellishment in their description of the sighting of the dumped fish.

The dead fish slick was seen to extend for at least 1 mile and was estimated to be a minimum of 100 yards across. The captains reported the numbers of discarded cod and haddock visible was very substantial. Both captains reported seeing two midwater trawl vessels in the immediate area treading water. Neither captain actually witnessed the dumping of the catch so it is not definitively known if the two midwater boats seen were the offending vessels. I have the name of the vessels seen in the immediate area..

One of the tuna captains used a shrimp basket to quickly collect two fish boxes (i.e. 200 lbs.) of bait and several of the whale cod from the slick for personal use. He reported the cod to be very fresh so the dumping most likely occurred earlier that day. Both Captains reported they could not cross the slick for fear of clogging strainers with density of floating herring. Tuna fishermen including these two captains have sighted two dead whales (one small humback and one minke whale) in the same area, although one of the whales was in such poor shape it was obvious that it was in the water prior to this recent dumping according to one of the captains.

We suspect (and many in the herring industry anticipated) that with the expiration of the emergency action authorizing landings of groundfish bycatch and the delay of implementation of Framework 43, that these kind of dumping incidents will increase especially with bait shortages and rising bait prices. It is highly unlikely that the herring mortality in the discards is being reported given the dramatic drop in observer coverage because of NMFS funding problems.

I cannot convey to you the outrage and disgust of tuna fishermen and groundfish fishermen over this situation. There is very little tuna effort this summer because most of the General and Harpoon category fishermen do not believe there is adequate forage in the Gulf of Maine to hold visiting giant tunas. Rising fuel cost and out-of-control dogfish abundance is also contributing to a lack of effort.

I am copying the State Directors on this note with the hope that some will try and investigate this recent dumping and do all in their power to prevent further incidents. I have also asked East Coast Tuna fish dealers to provide free disposable cameras to the few boats trying to fish to document additional dumping incidents.

What can NMFS do to correct this waste and damage to the discrete coastal herring stock from continuing now? Recent NMFS trawl surveys are showing a 50% decline in coastal herring abundance confirming our reports that herring in the Gulf of Maine are in trouble. At a minimum, can NMFS redeploy observers to 100% of the herring midwater fleet attempting to fish in Area 1A until the Framework action is implemented authorizing landings of groundfish bycatch?

I hope NMFS will recognize the seriousness of this situation.

Rich Ruais
East Coast Tuna Association
July 20, 2006

08-21-2006, 07:56 AM
OUCH - this is not good.

Bass Babe
08-29-2006, 08:32 AM
Word on observer coverage.

As for the whales...they do get caught in the nets, and can survive a certain level of mortality per year. But -- with decreased observer coverage, it is hard to estimate exactly how much mortality is taking place. A few dead whales, while it is shocking to see, can be okay under the right circumstances.

It is a shame that overlimit fish must be dumped, but what is the alternative? Being allowed to keep overlimit/bycaught fish is like having no limit. Self-reporting among certain fishermen and certain fisheries does not have a good track record. What will stop a fisherman from completing a few extra hauls, if not more, if overlimit/bycatch is allowed? If there is to be a limit on overlimit, it's just like raising the original limit.

I do agree with most of the posting, especially upping the observer coverage. There is no simple answer to the fish problem.

As an aside, scallopers are upping observer coverage through industry funding. Perhaps that is a way to fund observer coverage -- either through the midwater trawl industry itself, or through other interested parties funding some trips.