PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A statutory need to address a reported widespread decline in the status of the Gulf of Maine cod was translated Wednesday into terms of a potential economic catastrophe for the New England groundfishing industry — with projections of dealing a $70 million hit to Gloucester's economy alone.
The venue was a day-long meeting of the Science and Statistical Committee for the New England Fishery Management Council, which took the extraordinary step of not endorsing the findings of the peer reviewed assessment.
That move avoided triggering the legal process of setting draconian catch limits on the most essential food fish for Gloucester's and region's groundfishing fleet.
Because of continuing and new doubts about the accuracy of the new assessment — a blunt repudiation of an optimistic assessment only three years ago — a discussion of the what the medicine might be prescribed was left for federal regional management council and higherups in the Obama administration.
But the Social Sciences branch of the NOAA Science Center weighed in for the first time Wednesday. And NOAA scientist Chad Demarest presented output from a model created to replicate economic implications of severe cutbacks in cod allocations.
His model showed that, if cod catches were reduced to 500 metric tons from the roughly 7,700 tons caught in 2010, Massachusetts ex-vessel (at the dock) revenues would decline by $57 million.
He described that cut later as "overly pessimistic." But such a decline, due to the multiplier for processing, handling, fueling, icing and shipping would approximate $200 million overall, he reported..
Gloucester alone would suffer ex-vessel losses of approximately $18 million — or, after the multiplier, close to a $70 million hit on the city's economy.
New Bedford, meanwhile, would see $25 million vanish in ex-vessel income vanish, with nearly $100 million lost within the New Bedford economy.