National Fisherman

Mixed Catch 

jerryJerry Fraser is NF's publisher and former editor.



Bumble Bee Foods' decision to close the nation's last herring cannery is an excellent example of why U.S. fishermen are heading to Washington, D.C., for the fishermen's rally on Wednesday, Feb. 24.

Bumble Bee, which acquired the former Stinson Seafood cannery in Prospect Harbor, Maine, in 2004, announced its decision to shut the cannery down Wednesday afternoon. Bumble Bee cites federal herring catch limit reductions as the main reason for the closure.

When Bumble Bee acquired the plant in 2004, the harvest limit was 180,000 metric tons. Today, it's half that.

The 2010 harvest limit is controversial. The revised Magnuson-Stevens Act gives science the greatest weight in determining catch levels. Given that and the need to take into account "management uncertainty" about the biomass numbers, fishery managers believed they had no choice but to make significant harvest cuts.

But industry advocates argue that the stock assessment data doesn't warrant such severe reductions. Now the Prospect Harbor plant, which employs 128 people and has been operating for more than a century, will close its doors on April 18.

Bumble Bee says it will provide severance pay and job placement counseling to the cannery workers who are losing their jobs. But the impact of the closing on the town of Prospect Harbor is going to be significant.

The closing is a real hit to that town's economy. How many towns have an extra 128 jobs in their back pocket?

But Magnuson-Stevens doesn't let managers give the socio-economic impact regulations have upon fishermen and fishing communities the same weight as scientific data regarding stock health. That imbalance must be addressed.

Inside the Industry

NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.

We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.


A new study has identified a set of features common to all ocean ecosystems that provide a visual diagnosis of the health of the underwater environment coastal communities rely on.

Together, the features detail cumulative effects of threats -- such as overfishing, pollution, and invasive species,  allowing responders to act faster to increase ocean resiliency and sustainability.

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