Fishing managers on Wednesday recommended a shift in the amount of fish New England’s beleaguered cod fishing businesses should be allowed to catch for the next few years, which would reduce the limit for some fishermen.

The New England Fishery Management Council met to consider quotas for several important food fish, including the Gulf of Maine cod, which once was the backbone of the New England fishing industry and is now in decline. The council recommended a slight rise in quota for Gulf of Maine cod along with a steeper quota cut for Georges Bank’s cod.

Tough quotas and low availability have made local cod difficult to find in New England, and when it is available, customers must pay more for it than they would for foreign cod. Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, called the reduction in Georges Bank quota “a substantial cut to the industry.”

Inability to catch cod also prevents fishermen from landing species such as haddock, pollock and hake that live in the same areas, Martens said.

“It’s going to be hard for boats of any size to go out there and run a groundfish business,” he said.

The council voted to raise the commercial cod fishing quota for Gulf of Maine cod from 207 metric tons this year to 280 metric tons for the next three years. The 280 metric ton quota will be in place through April 30, 2019. It was a rare piece of good news for the declining fishery – the council voted last year to slash the total Gulf of Maine cod catch limit from 1,550 metric tons to 386 metric tons.

Regulators also voted to slash the quota for Georges Bank cod, a stock that is in worse shape than previously expected, according to a September report by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. The commercial quota for the fish will fall from 1,787 metric tons this year to 608 metric tons per year for 2016 to 2019.

The quota recommendations must go to the federal Department of Commerce for final approval.

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