AHOM Testifies Before ASMFC River Herring and Shad Management Board
Madam Chair Fegley,
It is with my pleasure that I come here today to represent the Alewife Harvesters of Maine(AHOM) as the River Herring and Shad Management Board takes on the important task of creating a benchmark stock assessment for these keystone species of the marine ecosystem, but also to coastal fishing communities and fishermen up and down the coast.
This stock assessment is something that is of the upmost importance to the Alewife Harvesters of Maine because we are fortunate enough to still be beneficiaries of healthy runs throughout our state, making our cultural and economic connections strong.
It is my hope that if you remember anything from my testimony today, that it be this: It may be counter-intuitive, but it is not a strange coincidence that the healthiest fish runs, and strongholds for these species are in the same place that we directly harvest the majority of river herring in our country. In fact, it is BECAUSE of this harvest, and this connection to these fish, that we have undertaken the difficult work to restore, to monitor and to locally manage river herring.
It is this connection of ours, to these fish, that makes this stock assessment and the decisions that follow, of such importance to us, and why we would like to be considered in the document and in the discussion.
Stock assessments are a place to look at a resource as a whole. They look at ecological connections and activities that make fish and that take fish, and then are the basis for how we make decisions. Assessments have not taken into account the human dimension and connection, and we believe that is a mistake.
We urge this board to make certain that the technical committee and stock assessment staff look at these human connections. Look at the benefits of stewardship connected to harvest. Look at what has been done in Maine (by harvesters and other stewards) to restore habitat and monitor and to make fish, and find ways to incentivize those beneficial connections and activities, in the same way that they would disincentivize a practice that harms fish populations.
The current metrics that are in place for alewife harvesters to be able to prosecute a fishery, act more as a deterrent to monitoring and data collection, than as an incentive.
We believe that Maine’s socio-economic and cultural connection to these fish is directly related to the work that we have done in monitoring and restoring these fish. Our connection to these fish, and the successes we have had in making fish, should be used as an example of how fishermen and managers can share goals and objectives and work together. But we need to be considered, and that is what we ask for today.
Jeffrey Pierce, Executive Director