Today Oceana asked the New England Fishery Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service to implement emergency measures that limit the bycatch of striped bass by commercial groundfish trawlers in New England. Oceana filed a formal petition based on new scientific information from the Fisheries Service that documents the significant waste caused by trawlers in a specific area where their operations overlap key striped bass feeding areas and are in the path of the annual migration of striped bass from New England to southern wintering locations.
"This needless waste of striped bass, one of America's favorite sport fishing targets, is not only unacceptable, it is preventable," said Mike Hirshfield, North American vice president and chief scientist at Oceana. "Trawlers should just stay off of the striped bass superhighway."
A July 2004 Fisheries Service analysis, based on the records of at-sea fishery observers, found that at least 289,000 pounds of striped bass were caught and dumped overboard by groundfish trawlers in the 2002 fishing year – an amount more than 25 percent of the entire commercial landings of striped bass in New England in 2002. The analysis also found that nearly all (84%) of this waste occurred in the Great South Channel, an area east of Massachusetts, during the months of September and October.
Oceana's petition requests that the following emergency measures be instituted immediately in the New England groundfish fishery to curtail the waste of striped bass:
* Establish a hard cap at the federally-estimated striped bass bycatch level of 289,000 pounds for groundfish trawl vessels in the Great South Channel for the period of Sept. 1 through Nov. 1, 2004; and
* Increase at-sea observer coverage of the groundfish trawl fishery in the Great South Channel for the period of Sept. 1 through Nov. 1, 2004 to monitor and report striped bass interactions.
"We need to stop the bleeding," Hirshfield said. "These emergency measures are necessary to limit the waste of striped bass this year while we set measures in place that will provide a long term solution to this problem."