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Drop in herring population may halt fishing renewal in Middleboro 8-30-17

Drop in herring population may halt fishing renewal in Middleboro

Taunton Daily Gazette
By Eileen Reece / Enterprise Correspondent
Posted Aug 30, 2017 at 3:57 PM

The 2017 herring population was calculated at 150,300 a significant 75 percent drop from last year's count of 600,000. The herring population has averaged between 500,000 to 600,000 over the last several years.

MIDDLEBORO – A 75-percent drop in the herring population for 2017 may curb tentative plans to lift a 10-year moratorium on herring fishing at the Middleboro herring run on Wareham Street.

David J. Cavanaugh, secretary of the Middleborough-Lakeville Herring Fishery Commission, told selectmen recently that the 2017 herring population figures have been released "and are dismal."

The 2017 herring population was calculated at 150,300 a significant 75 percent drop from last year's count of 600,000. The herring population has averaged between 500,000 to 600,000 over the last several years.

Cavanaugh could not explain the Middleboro drop and why some herring runs in the state had high counts except to say, "I think they (the herring) got confused," by the change in the weather pattern.

"This year was just significantly low. We'll have to see what happens over the next couple of years, if the downward trends seems to continue or if this was a low point due to natural weather phenomenon," said Cavanaugh on August 21.

"That's not good," said selectmen chairman Allin Frawley, a former herring commission member. "This is something I care deeply about, it's troubling," added Frawley.

"I can only assume our run is low because of the heavy drought we had last summer then all of a sudden we got several days of rain which brought the river (the Nemasket River) up. It got warm, it got cold, I think they just got confused this year," said Cavanaugh

"It makes sense," said Frawley.

Data shows that the first 2017 herring appeared on February 26 and then the herring disappeared in the month of March and returned for the peak season from April 8 through April 14.

Selectman Leilani Dalpe asked what effect the population drop would have on the discussions to lift the fishing moratorium.

"We are certainly not ready on our end to re-open this year or next year," said Cavanaugh in regards to lifting the fishing ban.

In April the Middleboro/Lakeville Herring Fishery Commission met with selectmen to announce they are beginning the process to be among one of the first in the state to allow herring fishing after it was banned by the state in 2006 in order to control a dropping herring population.

The ban was lifted in 2012 by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission as long as a state could show a sustainable yield. Middleboro's yield had continued to grow and had a herring population of between 500,000 and 600,000, until this year.

"The way the permission was given from Atlantic States Fishery Commission, if it drops below a certain percentage for three years in a row then any open fishing would be shut off until the numbers build back up beyond that percentage," explained Cavanaugh.

"The percentage that we would be allowed would be 30,000 fish to be taken from the river by the recreational fisherman," said Cavanaugh as long as the population remained at 600,000. If the population falls below that, "it would trigger a shut-off action," said Cavanaugh.

"We'll see what happens over the next several years," said Cavanaugh.

When harvesting was allowed the herring commission issued 300 permits through a lottery to non-residents for a $25 fee. No fee was charged to Middleboro and Lakeville residents and about 600 to 700 permits were issued, according to Cavanaugh.

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