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January 23, 2013

Cod cuts seen up to 86%

Fishing groups question dire new assessments

Landings of inshore or Gulf of Maine cod, already cut by 22 percent for the 2012 fishing year that ends April 30, could be further reduced by between 76.8 percent and 82.6 percent starting in May and covering the next three years, according to an announcement made Tuesday by NOAA’s New England Regional Fishery Management Council.

Landings of offshore, or Georges Bank, cod were also projected to be reduced by 60 percent for the 2013 fishing year that begins May 1. The allowable catch of offshore cod has fallen by about 26 percent over the past two years.

The projected cuts in fishermen’s landing limits for the 2013 season come after a new assessment of Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank cod stocks, which has not altered NOAA’s scientific opinion of the dire condition of the most essential target of Northeast groundfishermen.

Moreover, the council’s Groundfish Plan Development Team is advising the Science and Statistical Committee to reduce the “acceptable biological catch” on virtually every important fish in the mix of groundfish stocks on which the boats from Gloucester, New Bedford, Pt. Judith, R.I. and smaller ports from Maine to New York’s Long Island depend as primary source of landings.

The SSC meets today in Boston to set the acceptable biological catches for the 20 stocks in the mix of groundfish. Those figures form a calculation from which actual catch limits are derived. Then, a week from today, the full council is scheduled to set catch limits for 2013 based on the biological catch limits set by the SSC.

The discouraging data on cod was based on an extraordinary assessment of the stocks undertaken amid a crisis that threatens the survival of the Northeast groundfishery, which was declared an economic “disaster” by the acting commerce secretary last September based on socio-economic studies submitted by Gov. Deval Patrick in November 2011 and subsequently the governors of the other four coastal New England states and New York state. The 112th Congress ended Jan. 3 after deleting a $100 million fishery disaster aid provision from a $60 billion appropriation for Hurricane Sandy relief.

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