GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

February 11, 2012

The Mayor's Desk: Making city's case amid cod crisis

The Mayor's Desk
Carolyn Kirk

In 2008, the fishermen could "walk on cod."

Scientific reports showed that codfish were rebounding and plentiful.

Today, a few short years later, the scientific reports are showing the stock as vanishing.

Questions about the science and the fisheries management scheme are being raised. And in the meantime, Gloucester fishermen, and the Gloucester fishing economy, is caught in the cross hairs.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is responding in part by hosting a number of public meetings with stakeholders from the industry. Gloucester is also responding.

Today, I want to share with you portions of the statement that the Gloucester Fisheries Commission has prepared, and that I delivered in full and in person to NOAA officials yesterday in Portsmouth, N.H.:

Gloucester Fisheries Commission statement for Mayor Carolyn Kirk before the NOAA Gulf of Maine Cod Working Group - Feb. 10, 2012.

"The Gloucester Fisheries Commission met last evening in emergency session and expressed grave concern regarding deep cuts in allowable catches of Gulf of Maine cod.

"Gloucester's fishing industry and harbor infrastructure are deeply dependent on landings of codfish, and significant cuts in the allowable catch of codfish would, without a doubt, threaten the very survival of our entire fishing industry and working waterfront.

"The Fisheries Commission has been reactivated after many years to address pressing issues to our local fishermen such as the matter of Gulf of Maine cod management.

"Representing the diversity of Gloucester's fishing industry, the commission took action to send a letter to Secretary of Commerce John Bryson supporting the New England Fishery Management Council's short-term solution to enact an Emergency Rule for fishing year 2012 and allow an interim total allowable catch or TAC of cod at 7,500 metric tons. This will do the least harm to the industry as the process continues to address the scientific issues in question.

"The letter to Secretary Bryson will also make the following points:

"The economic impacts of deep cuts to landings of codfish will be felt most strongly by the Port of Gloucester. Our city will be the effective epicenter of the impact of the 'new' assessment. Gloucester was working under the assumption that GOM cod was on target to be rebuilt by 2010; we cannot survive a sudden cut of codfish landings, and we must not be forced to do so based on one assessment that dramatically contradicts years of scientific information.

"The stark difference between the two assessments in 2008 and 2011 threatens all fishing related businesses in our city, and it is essential to reassess such wildly different findings and conflicting results, if a fishing community like Gloucester is to exist.

"Gloucester is one of the remaining full service 'hub ports' in the region. The infrastructure is but a fraction of what it used to be, and everything that remains of that infrastructure will be lost if the council's recommendation to do the least harm to industry is not implemented by the secretary.

"We are grateful that the Northeast Seafood Coalition pointed out the section in the law that allows (the) National Marine Fisheries Service to implement a one-year interim TAC (Total Allowable Catch), and we appreciate the agency's agreement that this section provides it the authority to implement a one-year interim TAC to reduce overfishing.

"We urge every possible action be taken in the next year to address the inadequacies in the assessment prior to permanent TACs being initiated for 2013 and beyond."

As you can see from this statement, the regulatory environment is highly technical, and the fishing industry and the city of Gloucester need to stay on top of these decisions.

No easy task. We thank the members of the Gloucester Fisheries Commission who are: David Bergeron, who is chairman, City Councilor Bruce Tobey, City Councilor Sefatia Romeo-Theken, Al Cottone, Angela Sanfilippo, Paul Vitale, Gus Sanfilippo, Mark Ring, Joseph Orlando, William "BG" Brown.

Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.