GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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December 19, 2012

Fishing '13 cuts seen at up to 74%

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.

Under the proposal, potential cuts in allowable landings could include a 46-percent reduction in Gulf of Maine haddock, a cut of 74 percent in Georges Bank yellowtail flounder, a 30 percent cut in Cape Cod and Gulf of Maine yellowtail, and a 27 percent cut in witch flounder.

The letter by coalition executive director Jackie Odell to council Chairman C.M. “Rip” Cunningham indicates that, without emergency action — a series of 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 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. The projected landing limits, a function of amendments made to the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 2006 mandate hard catch controls and strict rebuilding timelines for overfished stocks.

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 some fishermen say would effectively immobilize the fleet.

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