Skip to main content

Herring Trawlers: Threat to New England Fisheries

A mid-water trawler.

A mid-water trawler.

Caleb Gilbert / NOAA

Case Overview

The population of groundfish off the coast of New England has been depleted for years. In 1994 nearly all fishing was banned from waters identified as spawning grounds and sanctuaries for cod, haddock, and other groundfish in order to give groundfish a chance to rebound from overfishing.

Herring mid-water trawlers were initially banned from the groundfish-closed areas in 1994. But in 1998 federal regulators decided to re-open these areas to trawlers, based on an assumption that the herring ships would catch little or no groundfish in their nets. As a result of this loophole in the regulations, it's estimated that these vessels have caught hundreds of thousands of pounds of mature and juvenile groundfish as bycatch.

Earthjustice has filed suit on behalf of local fishing groups to force federal regulators to close this loophole.

Case ID




Midcoast Fishermen's Association

Case Updates

October 25, 2013 | In the News: Morning Sentinel

Herring Protection Plan Rejected by Federal Regulators

A plan to protect Atlantic herring from independent catch observers was rejected by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Observers spoon herring out of the sea by the thousands, and other critical marine life is harmed during the process.

Roger Fleming, of the environmental legal group Earthjustice noted, "This is fairly absurd, even by government standards.”

March 15, 2012 | Blog Post

Why The Cod Is Sacred

Over the past few decades, Earthjustice legal victories have been working to shape an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management in New England.

March 9, 2012 | Legal Document

Herring A4 Decision Kessler

US District Court Judge Gladys Kessler has found that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has failed to stem the decline of Atlantic river herring and shad populations due to the overfishing by the New England industrial fishing fleet.

January 11, 2011 | Blog Post

Ocean Scientists Says There are More Fish To Catch...

Oceans scientist Steve Murawski has got some good news for our fishermen clients in New England: there may be more fish to catch next year. If you remember, many fishermen had to retire their nets because of too few fish.