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Groundfish catch. (Photo: Stock File)

Fishers in Northeast urge Congress to help

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Thursday, February 21, 2013, 05:10 (GMT + 9)

Fishers in the Northeast have addressed 25 US Senators and Representatives in a letter urging Congress to support fishery disaster declarations, to help offset the effects of recent cuts in the catch limits for cod and other species in the Gulf of Maine.

The plea was signed by 173 fishermen and insists that the decision to slash the catch limit in the Gulf of Maine starting on 1 May 2013 was founded on flawed science -- and that this decision will destroy the industry.

"We are writing today to express our very serious distress over the recent decision by policy-makers to accept the lowest of low allowable catches for our fishery in 2013 and beyond while simultaneously expecting an industry on the brink of economic ruin to absorb monitoring costs. We are in immediate need of your help," the fishers wrote, Portland Press Herald reports.

The letter refers to the vote by regional fisheries regulators recently to decrease the quota for Gulf of Maine cod by 77 per cent in 2013 and for Georges Bank cod by 55 per cent. The reductions are allegedly necessary to let groundfish stocks recover, as they have been found to be much weaker than previously thought.

But fishers are skeptical and wrote that government policies and programmes are to blame because they fail to accept that the current science behind the cuts is inadequate to effectively manage the fishery, Associated Press reports.

"There is no stability," said the letter. "There are only repeated, record reductions in catch limits. Prosperity is a discarded dream. This is a real disaster."

Further, the fishers want the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to pay for at-sea monitoring until the economic situation improves in the fishery. Last week, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials suggested they might want to use federal funds to help fishers cover these costs.

John Bullard, NOAA's northeastern regional administrator, said last week that New England groundfishing vessels that were unable to catch their full allotment of several species last year, will be permitted to bring part of that quota into this year’s to help offset the stringent catch limits.

Last month, five Massachusetts legislators fought the recent decision to block further temporary steps to avoid extreme cuts in groundfishing quotas. Democratic Senators John Kerry and Elizabeth Warren and Democratic Representatives John Tierney, Edward Markey and William Keating wrote a letter to Bullard, claiming that 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 an urgent step.

Related article:

Five legislators push to block drastic quota cuts in Northeast

By Natalia Real


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