Groundfish fishing boats from the New England fleet. (Photo: NOAA)
New England fishers will face additional quota cuts
Monday, August 06, 2012, 05:00 (GMT + 9)
Poor groundfish stocks will cause commercial fishers in New England to face drastic cuts in their catch limits next year, regulators said at a New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) groundfish committee meeting.
Although the final numbers are not in yet, officials noted that preliminary information shows catch limits could be reduced by 72 per cent for cod in the Gulf of Maine and 70 per cent for cod on the Georges Bank fishing east of Cape Cod. Catch limits could fall by 73 per cent for Georges Bank haddock, 51 per cent for Georges Bank yellowtail flounder and 69 per cent for American plaice.
These fishers have already been up against severe cuts in recent years due to withering fish populations. Some are calling the cuts a crisis.
This time, the cuts are necessary because certain fish stocks have shown dismal numbers for several consecutive years, while others remain overfished despite strict regulations aimed at eliminating the trend, The Associated Press reports.
Further, there will be a two-month closure of inshore gillnetting in the fall from northern Massachusetts to Maine to protect harbour porpoises, measures to protect Atlantic sturgeon, which was listed as threatened by vote of NEFMC in February, and a shift from the government to fishers to cover the cost of at-sea monitors, required under the catch share programme in effect since May 2010, The Gloucester Times reports.
Those costs are estimated at USD 650 a day, which will more heavily affect the smallest boats.
NEFMC will vote on the catch limits next November. The 2013 fishing year begins in May.
The Massachusetts-based Northeast Seafood Coalition (NSC) industry group said the 2013 outlook should motivate people to come up with new management strategies because simply setting catch limits is not working.
It is time to acknowledge that low productivity of fish stocks is "outside the control of the law or fisheries management and we can no longer continue to destroy fishing communities in an effort to control the uncontrollable," NSC wrote in a statement. "An overhaul is required, or else there will be no groundfish fishery."
According to Samuel Rauch, assistant fisheries administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and CM "Rip" Cunningham Jr, chairperson of NEFMC, the groundfish industry cannot escape the myriad challenges that will strike in 2013.
"We are committed to this fishery, to this industry, and to the people in this community," they said. "Preserving the groundfish industry is of the utmost importance to us and we'll put forward our unwavering support.”
“Today, we are continuing to engage in a conversation with our regional partners well in advance of the start of the 2013 fishing year. While there is unlikely to be any solution to fully mitigate the challenges in 2013, we plan to continue to work closely with the industry to explore every possible option,” they added.
- Gulf of Maine cod catch cut by 22pc
By Natalia Real
Photo Courtesy of FIS Member National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA/NMFS