Little fish, big win

by Phil Kline

July 24, 2012

The Dutch flagged super trawler "Dirk Diederik", fishing in Mauritanian waters, 30 miles from the coast. This 110 metre giant, belongs to the Dutch Pelagic Freezer Trawler Association (PFA), and is an example of the highly industrialised EU fleets that operate in and overfish West African waters with severe impact on the fish stocks, food security and the livelihoods of local people. Greenpeace is campaigning in West Africa for the establishment of a sustainable, low impact fisheries policy that takes into account the needs and interests of small-scale fishermen and the local communities that depend on healthy oceans.

© Greenpeace / Pierre Gleizes

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 meansprotecting the entire oceanic food web. Little fish are hugely important to big fishyet they’reoften 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 victorytook 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 NGOsworking to reform these fisheries for several years. Many of youtookactionand contributed to this effort.With support from Greenpeaceand 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 measuresrequiringobservers sample bycatch before it is discarded at sea.Althoughthe council failed to prohibit midwater trawlers from areas closed to groundfish fishermen, they did insert new rules requiringaccountability when the ships fish in closed areas.Depitethe 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 showswhat we can dowhen 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.

Phil Kline

By Phil Kline

Phil is a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace USA. He is a recognized expert on oceans policy domestically and internationally, and has represented Greenpeace U.S. at International Whaling Commission (IWC) meetings and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meetings around the globe.

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