By Richard Gaines
---- — The region’s largest industry group today urged the federal government to adopt a series of emergency interim catch limits for Gulf of Maine cod and other groundfish stocks for 2013 to avoid dooming the industry, already the subject of a disaster declaration, to “life-altering losses.”
The proposal by the Northeast Seafood Coalition was sent to the chairman of the New England Fishery Management Council in advance of a special meeting scheduled for Wakefield on Thursday to set catch limits for the fishing year that begins May 1, 2013.
The draconian cuts on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting are predicated on acceding to general mandates of the Magnuson-Stevens Act to immediately end overfishing. Examples include Gulf of Maine haddock facing a 46 percent cut, Georges Bank yellowtail flounder a 74 percent cut, Cape Cod and Gulf of Maine yellowtail, a 30 percent cut, and witch flounder a 27 percent cut.
The letter by coalition executive director Jackie Odell to council Chairman C.M. “Rip” Cunningham said that, without emergency action — a series of proposed interim catch limits that buys a year’s time for the fleet based largely in Gloucester but also spread in ports from Maine to New York — the industry would not survive the impending catch limits for 2013 projected by the council.
The projected landing limits, a function of amendments made to the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 2006 mandate hard catch lcontrols and strict rebuilding timelines for overfished stocks. These have mixed with enigmatic stock assessments and updates to produce devastatingly landing cuts to enough stocks in the groundfish complex to potentially idle the vast majority of the fleet, coalition leaders and members told the Times.
Referring to notices permit holders were sent last week by NOAA Fisheries that gave individual estimates of quotas, Odell wrote that “these letters reflect a travesty of science and management for this fishery.”
She described the impending catch limit decisions as “a disaster on top of a disaster.”
Her letter urged NOAA to repeat the interim emergency action that kept the reductions in Gulf of Maine landings to a cut of 22 percent for 2012, and apply the same legal framework to other stocks whose landings would be radically reduced in 2013, creating a mine field of choke stocks that soe fishermen say would effectively immobilize the fleet.
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Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at email@example.com.