When fishing industry leaders, fishermen, and Massachusetts political leaders rallied Monday on the Boston Fish Pier, all expressed the hope that their 11th-hour push would convince NOAA Northeast Administrator John Bullard and federal Commerce officials to back off their planned dire limit cuts for Gulf of Maine cod and other species when the new commercial fishing year begins Wednesday.
This afternoon, they got their answer. It’s “no.”
In briefings sent to congressional lawmakers and in a prepared release presented by NOAA’s Northeast headquarters in Gloucester’s Blackburn Industrial Park, Bullard announed that the agency was filing in the Federal Register by 4:15 p.m. today a suite of 2013 through 2015 catch limits that are down by 78 percent from the 2012 fishing year for Gulf of Maine cod, down by 61 percent in George’s Bank cod, and down dramatically as well for Gulf of Maine haddock, George’s Bank yellowtail flounder and a variety of other species, according to Bullard’s statement and the industry online service, SavingSeafood.com.
The limits also include a 500 metric-ton limit for George’s Bank yellowtail flounder, a figure “recommended by the joint U.S./Canada management body for fishing year 2013 based on the most recent assessment,” Bullard’s announcement said. The agency has also filed new mandates aimed at reducing the recreational fishing catch of Gulf of Maine haddock, through increasing the size limit from 18 to 21 inches.
Bullard also announced that NOAA is either increasing catch limits or maintaining the same limits in 2013 as they were in 2012 for several other stocks, including healthy redfish, pollock and white hake.
Also, NOAA is suspending for the 2013 fishing year its dockside monitoring program, in a move aimed at easing operationial costs to the fishermen and boat owners. The move does not affect the controversial at-sea monitoring program.