December 16, 2012

Feds urged to open five zones now closed to groundfishing

New ways of managing the New England fishery make the decades-old closures moot, proponents say.

By JAY LINDSAY The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

A scallop fishing boat heads out at dawn off Harpswell last year. Bottom-dragging scallopers are among the fishermen allowed in at various times to zones that exclude groundfishermen.

2011 Associated Press File Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

CLOSED AREAS SEEN AS RELIC

Maine fishing boat owner Maggie Raymond said whatever their possible benefits, closed areas are a relic of the old way of managing fisheries. The closed areas aimed to keep fishermen away from the fish, but after a 2010 change, regulators try to control overfishing with strict catch limits for each species. So keeping areas closed is redundant and unneeded.

"It shouldn't matter where you kill a fish, as long as you don't exceed whatever allocation that you have for a species," Raymond said.

Gloucester fisherman Russell Sherman said that opening closed areas will spread out the fishing pressure while making it easier to catch the limit of healthy stocks, which have higher quota. The Cashes Ledge area, for instance, was once a haven for the now plentiful redfish and the western Gulf of Maine area is good for pollock, he said.

Sherman has no doubt the closed areas contain high concentrations of fish. He said fishermen snipe around the edges for fish that wander out, and there's been plenty to pick off. But Sherman rejects the idea that allowing access will hurt the last vestiges of a species.

Access will be in limited spots, and in areas that don't contain sensitive fish habitat, he said. The 2013 cuts promise to be so devastating, the areas must be opened, Sherman added.

"If the feds want to look like they're giving us even a modicum of relief, they better open these areas," he said.

 

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