October 8, 2012

Critics: Scale back fisheries rules

They find absurdity in the 10-year timeline and the one-size-fits-all approach to rebuilding groundfish.

By JAY LINDSAY The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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The Maine fishing boat, Cap'n Mark, unloads its catch of fish at the fish auction facility in Gloucester, Mass., in 2008.

2008 file photo/John Ewing

"You've now come full circle, and it's not making sense anymore," said Cadrin, a University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth researcher.

But Baker said the law is rightly aiming to rebuild a robust groundfish fishery instead of keeping the industry limping along.

He said modest short-term growth in some fish masks long-term decline. Yes, Gulf of Maine cod is slowly growing, he said, but it's barely over half of the 1990 estimate of about 23,000 metric tons.

With other parts of the fishing industry prospering, such as New Bedford's $300 million scallop fleet, he said, there should be ways to help those who catch groundfish, which are bottom-dwelling fish such as cod and flounder.

"It seems like there's enough revenue in the fishery to go around," Baker said.

The dispute over the cuts comes amid anecdotal reports that fishing is off this year. Mirachi, who's been fishing for 50 years, said catches seem lower on some species, such as cod, but better on others because warmer water seemed to draw a different mix of fish. He, and scientists, can only guess whether it is an anomaly, he said.

In the meantime, he said, there's got to be way to temper both the optimistic and dismal projections about fish health and recovery, so the law doesn't dictate such massive swings in the catch as the ocean decides what it's going to do.

"We as an industry could be happier with lower highs," Mirachi said. "But we can't live with the depths of the lows."


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