Recreational cod fishery closed in shutdown's wake

PAT WELLENBACH/AP file photo/Gulf of Maine cod will be off limits to recreational anglers when the fishing season begins May 1.

Recreational fishermen will continue to fish under last year's rules when the new fishing season begins on May 1, leaving them for now out in the cold on Gulf of Maine cod and another victim of the 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government.

The New England Fishery Management Council said the extended shutdown means "2018 measures for Gulf of Maine cod, Gulf of Maine haddock and Georges Bank cod will remain effective until replaced by a new rule in 2019."

While Gulf of Maine cod remains off limits to recreational anglers, the bag limit for Georges Bank cod is 10 fish per trip per angler, with a minimum size of 23 inches.

The bag limit for Gulf of Maine haddock will be 12 fish per angler per trip, with a minimum size of 17 inches. The haddock open season is set to run May 1 to Sept. 16; Nov. 1 to Feb. 28; and April 15 to 30.

The shutdown sidelined the council's Recreational Advisory Panel, postponing its January meeting and leaving the council without the recommendations from the advisory panel on new measures.

In October, the recreational Advisory Panel said it would consider "separate measures by recreational fishing mode (charter, party and private) for Gulf of Maine cod and Gulf of Maine haddock while being fair and equitable across modes."

On Wednesday, the council voted to direct its Groundfish Committee to formulate 2019 recreational fishing recommendations and forward them to the council's executive committee. The executive committee, on behalf of the full council, "will submit recommendations to GARFO for consideration."

NOAA Regional Administrator Mike Pentony of the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office in Gloucester told the council he does not expect the recreational measures to be in place by May 1 "given the backlog of regulatory actions needing to be reviewed and implemented" by NOAA Fisheries.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.

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