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April 27, 2013

Fishing groups set to rally in Boston

With fishermen in Gloucester and elsewhere in New England staring at extreme and nearly across-the-board federally mandated cuts in landings of groundfish, the Northeast Seafood Coalition, the region’s largest industry group, is leading a major rally for the industry Monday on the Boston Fish Pier beginning at 11 a.m.

The rally will feature U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Attorney General Martha Coakley and Congressman John Tierney among the speakers, all of whom are Democrats, but have failed, like their fellow partisans, to reach President Obama to change administration policy.

The industry has been dramatically reduced in size since 1996 when changes in the Magnuson-Stevens Act began to erect regulatory protection for many of the stocks in the Northeast groundfishery — notably cod, flounder and haddock. From more than 750 active boats, the industry has been cut to half that size with losses in shore-side businesses — ice, fuel, dry-docking, netting and processors for example.

But the cuts in catch limits projected but not legally posted in the Federal Register as of Friday to take effect next Wednesday — May 1, the first day of the 2013 fishing year — present the industry with an unprecedented limited access to its essential resource, and source of commerce and income.

John Bullard, the regional administrator for the fisheries for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has repeatedly said in writing and orally that he cannot legally grant the industry a reprieve from the cuts — and if he could, he added, he wouldn’t anyway because of his expressed belief that the stocks primarily Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank cod and yellowtail flounder have not been rebuilding to the theoretical maximum biomass quickly enough.

Cuts in landings that are expected to go into effect on Wednesday range from 77 percent for Gulf of Maine cod, to 19 percent for haddock in the western sector of Georges Bank. Most of the cuts are in the 40-50 percent level.

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