The New England Fishery Management Council voted this week to recommend reductions of 77 percent from last year's cod catch for each of the next three years for Gulf of Maine cod, reducing the catch to 1,550 metric tons a year. A decade ago, the catch limit was 8,000 metric tons.
The council, a regional policy-making arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also recommended a one-year cut of 61 percent from last year on the cod catch on Georges Bank, a vast area off Cape Cod, Mass., decreasing the catch to 2,002 metric tons. A decade ago the catch limit was 12,000 metric tons.
The council's recommendations are subject to approval by the federal government, which is expected to put them in place by May 1.
Tom Nies, a fishery analyst for the council, said the industry made about $100 million at its peak in 2001 and about $80 million last year, The New York Times reports. The new limits could cut the size of the industry for this year to about $55 million, a reduction of $25 million.
Fishermen, however, said the cuts will have a far greater effect.
David Goethel, a New Hampshire fisherman and biologist said the actual loss to the industry would be about $60 million.
"Right now what we've got is a plan that guarantees the fishermen's extinction and does nothing to ameliorate it," he said.
Furthermore, NOAA's Northeast Administrator John Bullard said fishermen will be required to cover about half the cost of at-sea monitors to make sure they comply with quotas, The Daily News of Newburyport (Mass.) reports.
Bullard said NOAA's budget didn't allow the service to continue its full subsidy of between $3 million and $5 million.
U.S. Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., said the catch limits could be "catastrophic" for many fishermen in Gloucester, a major fishing port in his state, and across New England. He added that the U.S. Department of Commerce "seems unable or unwilling to provide any relief or common sense solutions."
"If Congress does not take action immediately, families and communities in Massachusetts and throughout New England are going to hit rock bottom," Tierney said in a statement Thursday. "This is not rhetoric or hyperbole, this is real life."
Tierney quoted a Gloucester fisherman, Joe Orlando, as saying, "I don't see myself leaving the dock next year. I'm not sure we're going fishing (anymore)."
The congressman said he would be introducing legislation to provide relief in the short term but called for "a common-sense solution to ensure the survival of this historic industry."
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