GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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April 11, 2012

New cod study to target 2013 limits

A new, expedited assessment of Gulf of Maine cod will be conducted this year for use in setting 2013 catch limits.

But a fishing industry leader is predicting continued consolidation of the fleet, and is fearful that, after this year's 22 percent cut in the allowable cod catch, the worst by far is still to come.

The extent of the new assessment will not be determined until after the New England Fishery Management Council's meeting in two weeks, a spokeswoman for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday.

On the heels of the 2011 assessment report that set the industry on its heels, the decision to conduct another Gulf of Maine cod assessment was mentioned almost as an afterthought in the announcement last week of the 22 percent cut in the 2012 catch limit for Gulf of Maine cod.

Yet, pending a game-changing surprise, industry analyst, fisherman, banker and businessman Vito Giacalone predicts the industry faces a bleak future that will encourage a continuation of "cannibalism," a word he prefers to the more technocratic "consolidation."

The 22 percent cut coming out of the dire 2011 cod report was a "transitional" decision, based on legal theories of what the Magnuson-Stevens Act allows — reducing overfishing but not ending it, while a rebuilding program to replace the one that failed is crafted by the council and NOAA.

Beyond the 22 percent cut under interim limits covering from the May 1 start to the new fishing year to Sept. 30, uncertainty in even the existence of a directed inshore cod fishery next year is the great destabilizer, Giacalone said in a New Bedford radio interview.

Giacalone is a board member and policy director of the Northeast Seafood Coalition, the region's largest industry group, president of the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund or permit bank, developer of a fish auction business property, as well as an active groundfisherman, and an industry representative in cod crisis discussions with NOAA since last year.

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