Northeast fishing industry laments new cod quotas
The sharp limits leave fishing companies with few options. But some researchers say the overfished cod need time to replenish their population.
But decades of overfishing brought the cod industry to near-collapse in the 1990s, and to a day of reckoning late last month. That's when the New England Fishery Management Council voted to cut the cod catch drastically -- by 77% in the Gulf of Maine and more than 60% in the waters off Cape Cod.
"(With) Gulf of Maine cod, there's not enough to sustain the fishery," Vito Giacalone, policy director for the Northeast Seafood Coalition, lamented in the Gloucester Times. "The game is over."
Officials who support the fishing limits acknowledge New England coastal cities like Gloucester, Mass. -- where fishing has been a way of life for centuries and where overfishing has hurt the local economy -- are going to suffer further.
"I do not deny the costs that are going to be paid by fishermen, families, communities," council member John Bullard, who's also a regional administrator with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the New York Times. "They are real. They will hurt."
A fishery analyst for the council, according to the Times, says the region's fishing industry brought in about $100 million at its last peak in 2001. But it made about $80 million last year -- and the new limits could bring this year's catch down to about $55 million.
And with cuts that deep, fishermen say there's no place left for them to go, financially.
"When I heard some of these fishermen calling for a complete closure of the fishery at the council meeting last week, I realized just how dire the situation has become," Mike Tetreault, executive director for The Nature Conservancy, wrote in the Portland Press Herald over the weekend. "When both the best available science and the experience of local fishermen are lining up to tell us that cod are in trouble, we need to act."
There are hopes, however, that the new catch limits might give the cod time to recover and build back up to a commercially viable and sustainable population.
Canada imposed a cod fishing moratorium in the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador two decades ago -- and last year researchers reported a significant improvement in the regional cod population. But it's just an improvement, they say, and not yet time to ramp up fishing operations or increase the quota for cod.
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