PORTLAND — Commercial fishermen in New England are facing severe cuts in their catch limits next year because of the poor condition of populations of so-called groundfish, regulators said Thursday.

Several important groundfish species are in poor shape and some catch limits for 2013 will have to be sharply reduced from this year’s levels, fishermen were told at a New England Fishery Management Council groundfish committee meeting in Portsmouth, N.H.

The final numbers aren’t in, but officials said preliminary information indicates that catch limits could go down by 72 percent for the cod population in the Gulf of Maine and 70 percent for cod on the Georges Bank fishing grounds east of Cape Cod.

The catch limit could go down by 73 percent for Georges Bank haddock, 51 percent for Georges Bank yellowtail flounder and 69 percent for a flounder known as American plaice.

Additional cutbacks could be devastating for the fishing fleet that goes after the bottom-dwelling fish, collectively known as groundfish. Fishermen have already faced severe cuts in recent years under strict regulations and faltering fish populations.

Cuts this time around are necessary because some fish stocks have experienced several consecutive years of poor recruitment, while others continue to be overfished despite strict rules aimed at eliminating overfishing.

The full council will vote on the catch limits at its November meeting. The 2013 fishing year begins next May.

The groundfish industry undoubtedly will be facing many challenges in 2013, Samuel Rauch, assistant fisheries administrator of the NOAA Fisheries Service, and C.M. “Rip” Cunningham Jr., chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council, said in a joint statement.

“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.


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