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April 22, 2013

Seafood group plans major Boston march

The Northeast Seafood Coalition, the region’s largest industry group, has announced plans to host a public rally at the Boston Fish Pier next Monday at 11 a.m. to build support for the government to provide disaster assistance to the groundfishing industry and communities from which home-port the fleet.

“This is the time for industry, friends of the industry, and seafood consumers to come together and ask for help,” said Jackie Odell, executive director of the Gloucester-based coalition. “We’re excited to unite in Boston, the hub of the Northeast groundfish fishery, to discuss important issues affecting the industry today and how we can preserve the fleet for tomorrow.”

The coalition’s rally will come just two days before the start of the 2013 fishing year for the groundfishing industry, which has been in accelerating decline since the Obama administration’s policy push to convert the fishing industry to a catch share management system that encourages fishermen to sell or trade shares of quota — and has steered more and more quota to bigger boats and corporations while smaller, independent vessels, like many of the day boats out of Gloucester, have been driven to the sidelines.

The May 1 start of the new fishing year is also set to bring dramatic cuts in catch limits, up to a 77 percent cut in allowable landings of Gulf of Maine cod, a standard of the New England seafood industry.

The acting commerce secretary, Rebecca Blank, declared the Northeast groundfishery to be an “economic disaster” last September, but neither the Commerce Department nor Congress have committed any money or regulatory changes toward addressing the problem.

The rally marks a dramatic change in tact for the Seafood Coalition, which has not participated as an organization in the industry’s rallies in the past.

A smallish rally in Gloucester, at the headquarters of the Northeast Regional offices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fishery service in October 2009, morphed into major tri-coastal rallies at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., in early 2010 and 2011.

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