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April 26, 2013

City hosting 'solutions' talks on fisheries

The city is sponsoring an all-day “solutions workshop” today with an eye toward sketching out options for the future for what once was the nation’s greatest fishing port, but now faces catastrophic cutbacks for the new fishing year beginning next Wednesday.

The workshop begins with remarks by Mayor Carolyn Kirk at 9 a.m. at the Gloucester House Restaurant, followed by an overview of the efforts to convince the federal government to allow a second year of interim catch limits, and an easing of the dire May 1 cuts that many see threatening the groundfishing industry that remains rooted in Gloucester.

The regional administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, John Bullard, has said he would not grant the relief — which for the ending year required only a 22 percent cut in Gulf of Maine cod landings, the primary stock harvested by the fleet of mostly day boats operating from the port.

A 77 percent cut — effectively eliminating the landing of inshore cod as anything but a by-catch fishery — is expected to appear in the Federal Register at any time for the new year that begins Wednesday. Bullard said he has been deluged with pleas for relief, but he reiterated at the New England Fishery Management Council meeting that ended on Thursday in Mystic, Conn., that he would resist even President Obama, whom he said he had not yet heard from.

Kirk said in a prepared statement that the goal of today’s forum is to “craft a comprehensive package of solutions for funding and implementation, which address the impacts of the groundfish cuts and that will be submitted to the Commonwealth’s Division of Marine Fisheries, the U.S Commerce Department through its agencies NOAA and National Marine Fisheries Service and our federal delegation.”

While the workshops and program are geared toward both long-term and short-term issues, state Rep. Ann Margaret-Ferrante, who expects to attend a portion of the forum, said the community needs to speak with a united voice and drive home a unified point.

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