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Observer collecting Atlantic cod during a groundfish trawl trip (Foto: NE Observer Program, NEFSC /NOAA)

Five legislators push to block drastic quota cuts in northeast

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Monday, January 28, 2013, 23:10 (GMT + 9)

Five Massachusetts legislators are standing up to a recent decision to block further temporary steps to circumvent extreme cuts in groundfishing quotas for 2013.

As it stands, catch limits on Gulf of Maine cod could be slashed by between 76.8 and 82.6 per cent starting on 1 May, and the haddock quota would also be dramatically cut.

Democratic Senators John Kerry and Elizabeth Warren and Democratic Representatives John Tierney, Edward Markey and William Keating wrote a letter to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Regional Administrator John Bullard about his decision late last week, claiming that unlike what he stated, the Magnuson-Stevens Act actually does allow for more than a year of interim relief, and that the economic disaster declaration in the Northeast fishery by the Commerce secretary in September 2012 makes taking action a priority.

"I don't foresee that we're going to change our decision and, even if we did, it doesn't change the biology," Bullard responded, The Standard-Times reports.

"Interim measures don't create any fish. They don't change the situation that we're looking at -- a depleted fish stock -- and the measures we're going to have to take to rebuild those stocks," he continued.

In the letter, the legislators asked that Bullard "immediately provide a plan detailing actions you will take to mitigate the adverse economic impacts of these harvest reductions.” 

"Such a plan should include consideration of carry-over of the maximum possible amount of unused quota from the 2012 season, greater retention of catch, and reopening negotiations with Canada on transboundary stocks of haddock and yellowtail flounder."

As well, they said, the plan should include an analysis of options that NOAA and the Department of Commerce (DOC) can take under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and other statutes for assisting individual fishers, their families and their communities.

Bullard acknowledged that the letter contains good suggestions, some of which, such as quota holdover, are already being considered.

The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) will be convening through most of this week in New Hampshire to decide on groundfish catch limits, Associated Press reports. 

The council met in emergency session in December and drafted the request that Bullard has just denied.

Related article:

- Northeast fishers could see extreme new cod cuts 

By Natalia Real


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