, Gloucester, MA

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December 22, 2007

Herring fishermen get early Christmas gift

The owners and the four- to five-man crews of the eight mid-water trawlers currently working out of Gloucester got the shiny, silver blue early Christmas present they had been hoping for since Oct. 25 or before: Abundant herring outside of Management Zone 1A.

“Everybody is getting fish now,” reports Dave Ellenton, vice president of Cape Seafood Inc.

That was not the case for some of the vessels last summer, and certainly not for all of them — the Challenger, Endeavour, Voyager, Providian, Western Venture, Osprey, Starlight and Sunlight — during the month after the closure of 1A on Oct. 25.

The news isn’t all good for all of them today, either.

Early Christmas gift

“The fish went further north (into the waters off Maritimes) this year. Finally, the fish moved out,” said Gerrard McCallig, skipper of the 149-foot Endeavour.

By late November, much of the often elusive, huge biomass of herring, which most scientists estimate to be around 1.85 million metric tons, began departing its summering waters off the Maritimes and the closed U.S. Area 1A. Area 1A stretches inshore to mid-shore from the U.S.-Canadian border, to roughly the tip of Cape Cod.

The herring began arriving in U.S. Management Areas 1B, 2 and 3, all of which run outside and further south of Area 1A, and have a combined yearly herring quota of 95,000 metric tons for the fleet to work on.

Area 1A, the main source of the peak July into October lobster bait market and the most profitable, and nearest area for the mid-water trawlers to work — that is until 2007 — was shut down for the year on Oct. 25 when the last of its 50,000 metric ton annual quota was netted. The bait market devours most of the herring catch.

“The fish just showed up on Georges (Area 3),” said McCallig. “They got there very late this year. These fish are mixy (on the small side — seven inches long or less). The stuff coming out of 1A (and into Areas 1B and 2) is nice fish (eight to 13 inches long). We are seeing some 100-ton spots (in Areas 1B and 2 on the monitors of their vessels’ sounders and sonars).”

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