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February 25, 2013

Maritime Gloucester hosts fleet diversity forum

Two organizations that favor federal intervention to ensure that NOAA’s catch share management system for the groundfishery — now in danger of collapse due to draconian catch limits — does not drive fishermen’s quota almost solely into the hands of large-scale boats and corporations is planning a series of workshops to examine how to keep fleet diversity and many of the smaller boats and businesses afloat.

The Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance and the Penobscot East Resource Center are co-sponsoring the series, which includes one planned for Gloucester, at Maritime Gloucester, 23 Harbor Loop, from 4-7 p.m. this Friday.

The New England Fishery Management Council has voted to develop an amendment to the catch share system, which has been in place since 2010. NOAA’s own data has shown that Gloucester’s groundfishing fleet alone has fallen from roughly 96 boats to 71 over that time, while catch share systems elsewhere have also yielded consolidation of the industry, with many smaller, independent boats unable to effectively buy or lease quota gobbled up by larger businesses that accumulate more “catch shares.”

The Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition and the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund have questioned the wisdom of the government’s attempting to impose structure on the largely laissez-faire commodification system that is not legally a limited access permit program, or LAPP.

But NAMA and the Penobscot East Resource Center think differently — and have been behind the decision of the New England council to craft ways of ensuring that the diversity of the industry is maintained between large and smaller boats, and between various ports.

For the workshop series, a team of fisheries experts from British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and France will join the region’s fishermen and fishing communities to develop alternatives that will ensure a diverse fishing fleet and protect the fish and the fishermen, NAMA and the resource center said in a prepared statement. The groups have titled the workshops the “Who Fishes Matters Tour;” in addition to Gloucester, there will be workshops in Rockport, Maine, Portsmouth, N.H., on Cape Cod and at Point Judith, R.I.

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