The cod fishery for 2013 “does not look rosy”.
The cod fishery in the Gulf of Maine has been a crucial one for fishermen in New England for hundreds of years. On Friday, both federal officials and fishermen met to discuss how they could solve the problem of the collapsing industry.
A major assessment four years ago had the cod fishery looking very positive and showed cod to have very strong numbers. However, last year’s numbers showed the waters had been severely overfished. They indicated that even if fishing stopped immediately the supply would not return until 2014.
This news was shocking as the New England cod fishery brought in $15.8 million in 2010. Fishermen faced an 82% cut in how much they were allowed to fish in 2011. Restrictions on cod also place restrictions on flounder and haddock as the cod swim alongside these fish and must be protected. Therefore, not only are cod fishermen struggling, but the effects seep into the pockets of fishermen of further species as well.
The 2012 year begins in May for the cod fishery, and the cuts announced by the regional regulators bought some time, but that may be all. The projected cuts for 2013 will end most cod fishermen’s careers. 2012 will see a 22% cut on what fishermen could catch in 2011. This means cod fishermen will be allowed to catch 6,700 metric tons of cod in the Gulf of Maine in 2012.
This was implemented by NOAA due to a one-year emergency rule the regional regulators at the New England Fishery Management Council requested. However, when 2013 comes along the cuts may be too severe.
Sam Rauch, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries arms said “It’s going to be hard to preserve the industry at those low numbers (in 2013) and that’s something that concerns us a great deal. This truly is one of the iconic fisheries. When you think of what the U.S. fisherman is, it’s an inshore Gulf of Maine cod fisherman. That’s why we are so devoted to working through this process to try to overturn every possibility we can. But the future, 2013, does not look rosy.”
Even though fishermen continue to question the science behind the fish population data, the meeting of fishermen, scientists and regulators set the level and it must be followed. We will have to wait for future years to see where the cod fishery is heading.