February 19, 2013

New England fishermen plead for gov't aid

By Jessica Hall jhall@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BOSTON — Fishermen from Maine to New Jersey have written to 25 U.S senators and representatives to express their distress over recent cuts in the catch limits for Gulf of Maine cod and other species.

click image to enlarge

In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, Ron Gilson, a 79-year-old life Gloucester native, walks along the fish pier in Gloucester, Mass. Fishermen from all over New England have written to Congress asking for urgent help surviving deep cuts to their catch limits. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)


In the letter, the fishermen urged Congress to fund fishery disaster declarations.

The plea to Northeastern politicians was signed by 173 fishermen. In the letter, the fishermen assert that the recent decision to cut the catch limit in the Gulf of Maine was based on flawed science. The slashed quotas will devastate the industry, the fishermen said.

"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 fishermen said.

Regional fisheries regulators recently voted to slash the quota for Gulf of Maine cod by 77 percent later this year and Georges Bank cod by 55 percent. The reductions are necessary, regulators and scientists said, because groundfish stocks have been found to be much smaller than previously estimated.

The fishermen also said National Marine Fisheries Service should cover the cost of at-sea monitoring in 2013 and continue to do so until the economic situation in the fishery improves. Fishermen currently must cover much of the costs of having catch monitors on vessels as mandated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Last week, NOAA officials signaled they are considering using federal funds to help fishermen pay for monitoring costs.

John Bullard, NOAA's northeastern regional administrator, also said last week that New England groundfishing vessels that did not catch their full allotment of many species last year will be allowed to carry over a portion of that quota into 2013 in order to help the industry weather austere catch limits set by federal regulators.

The groundfishing industry has been decimated in recent years. In 1990, an estimated 350 vessels hauled in more than 15 million pounds of Atlantic cod in Maine alone. Today, fewer than 50 fishing vessels remain in Maine.

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