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barryn
(Angler)
1/28/04 08:33 AM
trawlers [Post#: 1434 ] Reply to this post

Murder on the Great Lakes



These words, though rather harsh seem the only words that describe what is happening to a grand old lady , and friend of mine. I have known her all of my life and have grown to love and cherish her like a close family member.

I am driven to write this story in the sincere hope that someone or something can be done to stop this attack and save this lovely lady’s dignity. This victim is a neighbor and close friend to millions of people. She has provided them with food, comfort, jobs, peace and tranquility. In return she has been almost poisoned to death, been invaded by foreign organisms and deluged by every manner of physical abuse you could imagine. Yet today she has still managed to survive in almost pristine beauty. The lady, being as she is, has only on very rare occasions raised her voice to strike back at her assailants and never without warning. Her name? LAKE ERIE !

In recent years she has come under attack. From a source that I fear she can not survive from. A fleet of fishing boats, large trawlers are scouring the lake bottom between Port Dover and Wheatley in search of the beleaguered SMELT. (Apparently there is a large market for this small fish in Japan where it is considered a delicacy).

To this end the commercial fishermen are using a "small mesh drag net" to harvest smelt. The devastation that these nets reap is hard to believe. Each net scours the bottom of the lake. They are, NON SELECTIVE and kill everything they consume. I have seen the destruction that these nets reap first hand, and found it hard to believe.

While fishing on Lake Erie I used to see hundreds of schools of bait fish on my sonar (smelt, emerald green shiners, shad and many more) in huge schools driven into huge mounds 20 & 30 feet high by feeding Walleye and Salmon and Trout.

In last few years all of us sport fishermen have seen a big decline in the size and quantity of these schools . I have seen first hand why. I have gone out of my way to pass behind several of these trawlers and could not believe the lack of fish left in their wake. For an area 200 feet wide behind each boat there was literally nothing left in the water to show up on my sonar screen. These nets are true killing machines! They are held down on the bottom and open by using large steel dagger boards that weigh 200 to 300 lbs. (est.) . You can imagine the furrows that these steel plates leave in the soft lake bottom and the amount of damage that they reek to the ecosystems there!

The lake bottom is where life begins in the lake, if this is destroyed it could take years to recover, if ever!

I truly believe that the only thing that is saving a SMALL portion of the bait fish is the fact that the Canadian trawlers cannot legally fish on the American side of the Border and the Americans DO NOT TRAWL!. I say a SMALL portion of the bait fish, because the Canadian side of the Lake tends to stay cooler during the Summer months and the bait fish tend to congregate here rather than on the USA side of the Lake. The Trawlers are aware of this, and target these areas with impunity. Scouring the bottom with their nets, which reek total destruction in their wake! It will not end until they have nothing left to catch!!

Just because these boats are working in deep water a long way offshore and out of sight of the average person does not mean they are not there doing terrible damage. These nets do not know the difference between a Smelt and a small school of Perch or Trout or any other species and they are all smothered to death in the net.

Many of the commercial fishermen realize that the lake can not sustain this kind of abuse. These nets are the same type of nets that have devastated the Cod stocks on the East Coast. I know of several gill net fishermen who have spoken out against the trawlers. There are still others who agree, but cannot justify refusing the extra income to be made trawling, and continue to do it begrudgingly.. I realize they are just trying to make a living. But at what expense?

Regardless of how much money this fishing generates it just can not justify the horrific damage that is being done to the ecosystem. The fishery cannot survive much longer if something is not done. The implications are far reaching for all of us.

Why is it that we do not hesitate to prosecute someone who accidentally destroys fish habitat, through the discharge of chemicals, or disturbs the shoreline while building docks or improving harbors? Yet we let a DEADLY process like this go on unabated and condone it!! SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG!. I really believe that the lake cannot survive this "madness".The commercial fishing boats are finding it harder and harder each year to find the remaining schools of smelt in the lake. Apparently this whole scenario is a result of some biologists years ago declaring that Rainbow Smelt were an undesirable species, because they were introduced into the Lakes through the Sea Way System. It is NOW time to reassess this decision! Stop the destruction of the habitat that the trawl nets are causing to the Lake bottom.

Smelt have become an integral part of the food chain for many of the Sport fish in the Lakes. It seems to me that it would be far better to control their population through stocking of predator species like Walleye, Coho Salmon, Chinook or Rainbow Trout. If this was done it would help revive a Sport Fishery that is dwindling every year.

My name is Barry Nash .I have operated Bluegoose Fishing Charters for 25 years, fishing Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and Lake Huron through those years. I have seen a lot of wonderful sport fisheries come and go over the years for many different reasons, but to see one disappear for these reasons just does not make sense to me! It really irks me to see a resource being destroyed that should be protected for future generations.

Please SPEAK OUT about this travesty, JUST MAYBE SOMEONE WILL LISTEN!!

Please refer to an article in Popular Science Jan. 2004 . Pages 76 & 77. Murder of the Bounty!





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