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March 30, 2012

State fish deputy seeks cod crackdown

The state's deputy director of marine fisheries has urged NOAA's cod crisis response team to crack down on inshore gillnetting and schemes used by offshore trawlers to get at the stocks in Stellwagen Bank and other nearby waters.

David Pierce, who first made public a series of chronic private complaints by dayboat fishermen of cod-poaching off-shore trawlers working schools on Stellwagen, noted those reports in a letter a month later, dated Feb. 29.

The letter was obtained by the Times earlier this week.

Pierce expressed skepticism at the freedom from government oversight granted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to sectors, or fishermen's cooperatives, as incentives to join in the trading of catch shares and quota under the fishery's now 2-year-old management system.

Pierce wrote at length to Sam Rauch, who is heading a NOAA cod crisis response team that's preparing a series of directives brought on by a dire assessment of Gulf of Maine cod stocks in 2011.

Pierce's letter served as the informal agenda for a reportedly contentious secret meeting of the state's marine fisheries hierarchy held at the Division of Marine Fisheries Laboratory on Emerson Avenue on Monday, with around three dozen fishermen and officers of the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition and the other industry groups.

The meeting produced no tangible outcomes but was described to the Times as an airing of ideas.

"DMF held a meeting in Gloucester at our office on Monday afternoon to bring some of those fishermen together to help us understand how they are solving their problems and dealing with diverse interests within and between sectors," said a spokesman for the division. "This was an open meeting, and all were welcome to attend and participate."

Mayor Carolyn Kirk, however, was not notified of the meeting, she said Thursday, nor were other local officials close to the fishing industry.

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