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Thanks to industrial-scale fishing off Rhode Island’s coast, one of the most humble fish is in the spotlight of the state’s fishermen and regulators.
The appearance in Ocean State waters earlier this year of large boats from out of state following Atlantic herring as they migrated unusually far north with the mild winter has caused concern on two fronts.
The large boats use a method called pair trawling, in which two boats suspend a huge net between them and then gobble up tons of herring, but also many other fish as well. In the process they have the potential to deplete the by-catch stock.
More frighteningly, a pair of the 200-foot boats caught a local trawler in their net, nearly snapping it in two before releasing it, and in the process causing well more than $10,000 in lost income and damage.
Now the R.I. Department of Environmental Management has started the process of developing regulations limiting these trawlers’ work in Rhode Island waters, at least until more studies can be made of their effects.
The sooner the DEM comes up with the regulations, the better. •