Fishing regulators to set limits on Gulf of Maine catch today

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — New England's fishing fleet faces grim news Wednesday as regulators meet to consider steep cuts in catch limits that fishermen warn will trigger industry collapse.

The New England Fishery Management Council is meeting in Portsmouth to decide 2013 limits on stocks including cod on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine.

Fishermen are facing a year-to-year 81 percent cut on the Gulf of Maine cod catch limit, to 1,249 metric tons, and 61 percent on Georges Bank cod, to 5,103 metric tons.

Fishermen who chase the region's bottom-dwelling groundfish, such as cod and flounder, say the cuts will hollow out what remains of a struggling fleet, leaving them with too few fish to make a living.

The low limit reduces the catch on a storied New England species to just a fraction of what it once was, and it also prevents fishermen from landing more plentiful species, such as haddock and pollock. That's because fishermen can't pull up the healthier groundfish without catching too much of the cod that swim among them.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's top federal fisheries regulator, John Bullard, has acknowledged that the cuts will be devastating to the industry and fishing communities.

But he says the science and low catch rates this year show that key stocks are in perilous condition and major cuts are needed to meet legal mandates to rebuild the fishery. He predicted that the industry would adapt and survive in some form until groundfish recover, perhaps by learning how to better catch healthy stocks. But he said he had no idea what the remnant would look like.

Fishermen have consistently disputed the accuracy of fish science, pointing to various dismal projections of stock health. And they say catch is down this year because of natural cycles or as a result of poorly designed regulation that keeps fishermen away from healthy species.

The coming cuts have been foreseen by fishermen and regulators for months, but attempts to avoid or mitigate them have failed.

Last year, the U.S. Senate committed $150 million in its Superstorm Sandy relief bill to be shared by fishermen in the Gulf Coast, Alaska and New England, where a national fishery disaster has been declared. But House lawmakers stripped out the funding, and the bill passed Monday with nothing for local fishermen.

The Northeast Seafood Coalition, an industry group, also lobbied to extend an interim measure passed that allowed the industry to put off huge cuts in cod and haddock in the Gulf of Maine in 2012. Bullard rejected that, saying there was no legal justification. Several lawmakers who represent fishing communities have asked him to reconsider.

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FRANK EARLEY's picture

I don't know much about fishing but.......

Lets just for a minute, imagine that the regulators, who ever they are, are right. The cod population is near extinction, The North Atlantic is turning into another Dead Sea. Evidently the lobster and scallop fisheries are at an all time low. We all know what the shrimp fishermen are going through, and I feel for all of them. I feel for them because of this. If someone told me tomorrow, I could only eat fresh New England Sea Food for the rest of my life, and absolutely nothing else. I would be the happiest person in the world. That being said, I have this one question. If all the fishermen are driven out of business, and take a different career path, who will reap the benefits of this new and energized fish population.
I was forced to retire from my chosen career field after twenty five years, at a relatively early age due to an over abundance of job seekers in my field. I retrained and went back to work in my new field, made more money, and had much better working conditions. I never would have gone back, even now, when the job market in that field is better. What happens if all these disgruntled fishermen never come back? They going to have "Fisherman" classes at the tech schools like they have "Truck Driver" classes? How exactly do these so called experts expect these guys and gals to get by for several years without any income to pay for their boats and living conditions?
It just seems they are quite casual about throwing someones career under the truck, just to meet their agenda's. I just get the feeling that nothing else matters to these people, but the fish. More importantly, and of most interest to me is my seafood dinners, I don't like seafood from the Gulf Coast or the Pacific Ocean. What are all these folks going to be doing in five or ten years?

 's picture

You refer to these regulators with obvious contempt

But they said "...major cuts are needed to meet legal mandates to rebuild the fishery." Legal mandates. That means laws passed by Congress signed by the President. Due process of law. Not an agenda. Not something decided by the regulators, but an agenda formulated by Congress. I guess its democracy you have contempt for.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I refered with one question....

Who ever is responsible for the mandate, agendas, or whatever you want to call them, is putting the fishing industry in a terminal condition. Believe me, having Congress responsible for the mandates doesn't work any better for the fishing industry. If they put everyone out of business, who will the beneficiaries of this great eventual fish population be? What I'm saying is sometimes bureaucrats aren't the best pick for a problem, many times they become experts in their own minds. The fishing problem should be left to those most at risk of losing it. Trust me they know more than the politicians in Washington....

 's picture

Why would you think that.

Fisherman got the fishery in this condition. Commercial Fisherman created the problems of overfishing years ago. They have little incentive to fish sustainably. So the industry goes through booms and busts. In the busts they move on to other fish stocks until they bust.The oceans are in very bad shape from pollution and overfishing. The fishermen bank the checks in the good years and cry for help in the bad years they have largely caused. When was the last time that 600 lb cod from the Grand Banks were brought to port.


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