GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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March 8, 2013

NOAA head explains stock stands

NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard said Thursday fishermen’s testimony he’s heard that the inshore waters are teeming with yellowtail has made him concerned about proposed draconian catch limits for the species of flounder.

If the Gulf of Maine yellowtail stock is as strong as fishermen insist, the proposed cut in landings — to less than 50 percent of the 1,159 metric tons for the year ending April 30 — would make yellowtail a fish that must but could not be avoided, and thus emerge as another and unnecessary impediment to the survival of the inshore fleet, as it already faces a 77 percent cut in the allowable catch in its primary target, the iconic cod.

Yellowtail, cod, haddock, hake, and other flounders are found in close proximity, making up the Northeast multi-species groundfishery, and low allocations of prevalent stocks create the nightmare for fishermen who must stop work once they’ve come to their limit on any single stock.

While conceding that he’s heard enough to be concerned about yellowtail emerging as choke stock for the inshore fleet, however, Bullard dug in Thursday against the same argument made about Gulf of Maine Cod, which is facing a 77 percent cut in the allowable catch for the 2013 fishing year beginning May 1.

Bullard incurred the ire of inshore fishermen in January when he issued a written decision declining to allow the inshore fleet a second consecutive year of “interim” action on the fish on which the oldest port in America was built — Gulf of Maine cod. The interim action decision — a first in the more than 30 year history of the Magnuson-Stevens Act — was predicated on the law’s allowing a reduction rather than the elimination of perceived overfishing for one year.

It held that the cut in Gulf of Maine cod for the 2012 fishing year to only 22 percent less than the catch allowed in 2011.

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