GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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August 29, 2010

Feds shut down fishermen's access to dogfish

The federal government has announced a decision to stop all landings of dogfish — an action widely seen as another body blow to the inshore groundfishing fleet as it struggles with limited access to preferable table food fish.

The action was taken by Patricia Kurkul, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Gloucester-based regional administrator of fisheries. And it comes after the six-month NOAA Fisheries allocation was landed in three months.

But that's a development that industry analysts attribute to the overabundance of the small schooling shark and efforts by fishermen to keep working even for a low-value, low-margin prey, while saving their small allocations of the more valuable groundfish,

Dogfish was bringing around 25 cents a pound last week, and, with a 3,000-pound daily limit, the day boats could eke out gross revenues of $750 a day while saving small allocations of high value groundfish.

Dogfish have become a core fish in the northeast groundfishery during the restoration management regimens on the high value cod, and other groundfish. Gloucester is the No. 1 dogfish port in New England.

Dogfish are found on both sides of the Atlantic and have become a major nuisance to recreational and commercial fishermen who constantly report losing prized game or food fish from hooks and gillnets to the world's most abundant shark.

Zeus Packaging Co., which operates in the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction complex, is the primary buyer of the dogfish, which have become a perverse symbol of a fisheries management system that, to many fishermen and others who work within the industry, seems driven by illogical aims.

For one thing, dogfish are by far the most abundant species to be brought up by NOAA's research nets, said Dr. Brian Rothschild, the dean emeritus of the UMass School of Marine Science and Technology.

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