Many in Gloucester also worried about two proposed liquefied natural gas terminals that would be in the northern part of a productive area of the gulf, called Block 125. Gov. Mitt Romney's approval Dec. 19 included a $47 million mitigation package added on by the secretary of environmental affairs. Of that, $12.6 million was earmarked specifically for Gloucester fishermen.
The new federal restrictions are the end result of a pessimistic assessment of the groundfish species targeted for protection and rebuilding. That report in 2005 led to a review and tightening of restrictions on a number of species, including cod. It recommended a 35 percent reduction in cod mortality, or the total number of cod killed from either being caught and brought to shore or thrown overboard because a fisherman reached his catch limit.
Through the end of 2005 and much of 2006, the New England Fishery Management Council worked on creating new regulations based on the 2005 groundfish report designed to keep the New England fishery on track to meet the goals of a 10-year rebuilding plan.
Local elected leaders and industry advocates spoke out against the proposed restrictions, calling them draconian and traveling to Washington to testify against their implementation with Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey.
Mayor John Bell; New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang; Rep. Anthony Verga, D-Gloucester; Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester; Vito Calomo, executive director of the Massachusetts Fisheries Recovery Commission; Jackie Odell and Vito Giacalone of the Northeast Seafood Coalition; and Angela Sanfilippo of the Fishermen's Wives Association spoke at each of the council's meetings and submitted an alternative proposal that ultimately did not become part of the council's plan.
Because work on the new set of regulations, known as Framework 42, went beyond the time the regulations were actually to take effect, the council approved a set of emergency rules which amounted to a half-step toward the restrictions Framework 42 would impose.
The emergency regulations went into effect May 1 and reduced the amount of cod a fisherman may bring ashore on a single trip from 800 pounds to 600. They also introduced a new way of reducing catch by keeping fishermen docked. Fishing permits limit the number of days fishermen are allowed to be at sea each year and the emergency regulations began counting each day actually on the water as 1.4 days against their permits
In October, the council finally approved Framework 42. Those regulations, which went into effect Nov. 22, kept new catch limits in place, but bumped the days at sea counting to 2-to-1.
State Attorney General Thomas Reilly filed suit in May against the emergency regulations and later against Framework 42 when it went into effect, claiming they violate the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal law that governs how fisheries are managed.
On top of new regulations, the fishing industry worried about the two LNG ports because of their location in prime fishing grounds. Each port would have an 800-yard security perimeter around it, denying access to fishing vessels.
As part of the projects' state approval, Excelerate Energy and Suez North America will give $12.6 million to a local nonprofit organization to buy and lease the fishing permits of local fishermen who decide to get out of the business. The thinking behind the organization is to keep permits in Gloucester to maintain the infrastructure around the harbor and hold them if and when the local fleet begins to rebound.