, Gloucester, MA

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March 7, 2012

Cod 'crisis' hitting markets

These days, Gloucester supermarkets rarely, if ever, sell fresh caught cod.

The price of fresh caught cod has doubled at the wholesale level, putting it out of bounds for many retailers.

The city's landmark Gloucester House has no cod on its menu.

Fine seafood restaurants in Boston are using pollack instead of cod for fish and chips.

Others now get their supply of the 200-year-old Commonwealth of Massachusetts' iconic state fish from Norway.

Such is the state of the cod in the state of the cod.

In December, a government panel announced the exceedingly grim assessment that Gulf of Maine cod, the foundation fish for the New England day boat fleet operating primarily out of Gloucester, had collapsed since a rosy assessment in 2008 that was buttressed by fishermen's hands-on findings.

In February, the dire news of the allegedly shrunken cod supply, which drew bitter denunciation and skepticism from many fishermen, politicians and scientists, prompted the New England Fishery Management Council fish-governing body (National Marine Fisheries Service) to propose a 22 percent cutback in the allowable catch by East Coast fishing sectors next season, which begins May 1.

"Twenty-two percent will have an effect on people," said government spokesperson Maggie Mooney-Seus, "but hardly as much as the 80-90 percent decrease that might have been if we had to apply the letter of the law."

One day last week, neither of Cape Ann's Shaw's markets, nor Market Basket, nor Stop & Shop had any fresh cod, just previously frozen or none at all.

It was also not on the Gloucester House menu last week, said owner Lenny Linquata; the Gloucester House's fish and chips features haddock.

"Because it's getting harder and harder to maintain it within a reasonable price," he said, "our (profit) margins are much harder to achieve."

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