GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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March 2, 2013

Small boats face double fishing hit

Fed, state fishing rules sock small operators

At the back of the groundfishery’s pecking order is a small group of small boat fishermen operating in the three-mile wide confines of state waters with state permits.

Don King is one of them.

A number of years ago, King, who was featured in the NBC News segment on the demise of the cod fishing way of life in Gloucester Wednesday night, built a boat for himself, named Scotia Girl, designed to allow him to gillnet for fin fish while also lobstering.

Subsistence fishing at the smallest scale demands creativity, King explained in an interview Friday.

But innovation sours when not combined with opportunity, and opportunity is what King and his cohorts — about 20 full time and 40 more part-time state fishermen — have been denied by Paul Diodati, the director of marine fisheries for Massachusetts.

In a Feb. 5 letter to the Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission, Diodati explained that he would not allow the state boats greater access to intermittently closed areas because just outside the state waters, bigger boats — boats of a scale and equipped for the rigors of offshore Georges Bank — have been scooping up cod.

This fishing for pulses of cod is one of the most harmful unintended consequences of the catch share commodity trading system rapidly adopted in 2009 at the behest of former NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco and rushed into operation in 2010, driving the industry into what is now a government certified economic disaster. The easy bartering of allocated quota under the catch share system, along with the elimination of daily catch limits that had been at 800 pounds, have combined to allow boats to load up with quota and then load up on Gulf of Maine cod by fishing close to the border with state waters.

In the letter which summarized his decisions against loosening restrictions on the state boats, Diodati wrote that he and other state officials “share” the concern expressed by King and his colleagues at a December meeting that “heavy fishing, unencumbered by trip limits, has been occurring, particularly on Gulf of Maine Cod when they are aggragated for migration, feeding (and) spawning, and has significantly contributed to declines in local abundance.”

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