GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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February 18, 2013

Cod quota rollover is tightened, too

NOAA Regional Administrator John Bullard has agreed to extend a 10 percent carryover of uncaught fishing quota to the new fishing year — for all stocks except the Gulf of Maine cod, for which a carryover and potential bycatch would account for fishermen’s total catch under dire new catch limits due to take effect May 1.

With inshore cod catch limits slashed by 77 percent for the coming fishing year, a carryover of only 1.85 percent for that stock is anticipated, lest the additional quota legalize overfishing, NOAA officials say.

Last month, the New England Fishery Management Council set the acceptable biological catch of inshore cod at 1,550 metric tons, a volume so low that most fishermen and analysts expect to shut down their pursuit of the iconic New England fishery stock beginning May 1.

The additional 1.85 percent that Bullard announced last week was the exception he said he was required by law to make to avoid allowing overfishing amounts to 65 metric tons. Added to the 1,550 recommended by the council, an arm of NOAA that roughly approximates a regional fishery legislature without veto overide power, the carryover would give the industry 1,615 metric tons.

Bullard, the former New Bedford mayor who, in his current role, is based at NOAA’s building in Gloucester’s Blackburn Industrial Park, said in a prepared statement that he he was looking to maintain the rollover policy that had been in effect since the second year of catch share fishing in 2011.

“Current fishery management regulations allow up to 10 percent of unused quota to be carried forward,” said Bullard in the announcement on NOAA’s Northeast Regional Office website. “This provides fishermen with some flexibility on when they fish — so they can avoid bad weather and take advantage of times of year when fish are available and prices are highest.

”For all allocated groundfish stocks, except Gulf of Maine cod, where the stock remains in poor condition and there is a high risk of exceeding overfishing limits, we intend to continue to allow fishermen to carryover up to their full 10 percent unused quota in 2013,” he said. “For Gulf of Maine cod we intend to allow just under 2 percent carryover in 2013 to avoid a risk of exceeding the overfishing limit.

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