GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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September 1, 2010

NOAA cuts 'common pool' limits in half

The federal government has abruptly cut by 50 percent the fishing opportunities for the small number of groundfishing permitholders who are not part of the new "catch share" system, and are fishing out of the so-called common pool.

The president of the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction described the action announced Wednesday as providing the coup de grace to the few fishermen still struggling to remain viable under the old Days at Sea regulatory rules.

And the executive director of the Northeast Seafood Coalition, which warned against the instability in empowering mid-year adjustments, agreed.

"Just another slash or nail in the coffin for anyone who remained in the common pool," said the coalition's Jackie Odell.

The common pool substratum is made up of fishermen who, for the most part, lacked the 10-year landings history needed for a viable share of the total allocation and a place in the catch share system now entering its fifth month.

The creation of a two-tiered system allowed the federal government to skirt a requirement in the Magnuson-Stevens Act that requires a proof by referendum that the industry sought to convert into a catch share system format.

The mid-season adjustment by the office of Patricia Kurkul, Gloucester-based regional administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was the latest in a series that shaved trip limits in an effort to "ensure a stable supply of groundfish throughout the fishing year," according to the text of the Tuesday announcement.

The announcement cited accelerated takings of the allocation to the common pool as reason for the change.

While landings through Aug. 21 by the common pool boats had already accounted for 88 percent of their annual allocation in Gulf of Maine Cod, 74 percent of Gulf of Maine winter flounder and 105 percent of the allocation of witch flounder, the allocations to the common pool were generally well less than 10 percent of the full allocation to the combined catch share boats working in "sectors" or harvesting cooperatives and common poolers.

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