As the struggle to save the foundering Northeast groundfishery continues, drastic cuts on landing limits for cod, yellowtail flounder and haddock went into effect this week.
Adopted by the New England Fishery Management Council in late January and effective May 1, the cuts brought little cheerful news to the fishing communities up and down the New England coast.
“We know that for some fishing communities that have relied heavily on cod, haddock and flounder, the next several years are going to be a struggle,” said John Bullard, NOAA Fisheries northeast regional administrator, in a prepared statement released Tuesday. “We’ve done everything we can to include measures that may help soften the blow of quota cuts, but it’s going to take a collective effort to find more ways to keep both the fishery and the businesses that support it viable while these stocks recover,” Mr. Bullard said.
Quotas will be reduced on nine stocks of cod, haddock, and flounder. For nearly half of these stocks, the 2013 quotas are higher than what fishermen actually caught in the last fishing year, NOAA said. Catch limits on cod will be cut 78 per cent.
The fishery council and NOAA plan to ease restrictions on fish that are in better shape, including white hake, pollock and redfish. “Knowing the challenges facing groundfish fishermen, NOAA Fisheries adjusted the 2013 white hake quota upward by about 15 per cent over the proposed level, because recent analysis shows the stock condition has improved,” the statement said.
In September 2012 the U.S. Secretary of Commerce declared the New England fishery a federal disaster. At the time Greg Mayhew, one of the last groundfishermen left in Menemsha, said he had gone from catching 100,000 pounds of yellowtail in a year to about 4,000 pounds.
“You can’t go and make any money, so you might as well tie it up,” Mr. Mayhew said. Echoing many others, Mr. Mayhew agreed with the predictions for the 2013 fishing season. “I see it is being pretty catastrophic as far as groundfish are concerned,” he said. “A lot of the problems with fishing stocks are bad management decisions.”
On the heels of the NOAA announcement this week, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren issued a statement criticizing the failure of an interim measure, that she said “would have balanced protecting the fishing resource with protecting our fishing families’ way of life.
“These painful cuts will be felt far beyond the docks and will impose economic hardship on our coastal communities.”