Industry Update: NOAA shuts out proposal to alleviate impacts to local fishermen


Gulf of Maine cod is a key stock for local fishermen, and increasingly strict restrictions set by the federal government for this stock have hit the industry hard in recent years.   Most recently, declining stock assessment data prompted NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service to implement an emergency interim measure for the stock last November.  This emergency measure restricted the total allowable catch per trip for local fishermen to only 200 pounds.  In addition, certain areas of the Gulf of Maine thought to be of significance to this key stock have been restricted to fishing in the hopes of decreasing mortality and increasing the stock’s total biomass.

In response to these low emergency  limits and the dramatic economic fallout expected for the local industry, a coalition of fisheries advocacy groups presented a proposal aimed at alleviating some of the fallout from this latest crisis.   The proposal involved a request to surrender a portion of un-allocated fishing quota in a local community fund in the hopes of marginally increasing the individual quotas currently debilitating local fishermen.  The proposal also included requests that NOAA reconsider opening some of the closed portions of the Gulf of Maine.  Much to the dismay of industry advocates and the groups behind it, this proposal was flatly denied by acting NOAA regional administrator John Bullard this past week.  However, the coalition of fisheries advocacy groups behind the proposal have refused to accept defeat.  More will be included in coming posts on the next steps in this uphill battle.

The Gulf of Maine cod issue is not an isolated problem, but rather comes on the tail end of some of the bleakest fishing years in history.  NOAA’s recently released annual report on the Northeast Multispecies Groundfish Fishery paints a stark picture.  From the Gloucester Daily Times:

“The Northeast Multispecies Groundfish Fishery hit four-year lows in just about every pivotal category during the 2013 fishing season, including landings, revenues and the number of boats fishing in the inshore day-boat fleet.

The findings, contained in NOAA’s final report on the season released Thursday, sketch a pessimistic and dire portrait of an entire fishery under siege from economic, regulatory and environmental pressures during the past four years.

 That is especially true in Gloucester and Massachusetts.

In Gloucester, the past four years have brought a whopping 37.2 percent decline in gross revenues from all species as a landed port ($24.98 million), and a similarly devastating 31.8 percent decline in gross revenues generated by fishermen who call the port home ($17.06 million).

Those declines are largely driven by losses in groundfish revenues. America’s oldest seaport suffered a 47.4 percent decline in gross groundfish revenues as a landed port ($14.53 million) and a 43.9 percent decline in gross groundfish revenues as a home port ($9.41 million) in the past four years.

On a regional basis, Massachusetts suffered the most during the past four years, losing $29 million in gross groundfish revenues as a landed port and $22.2 million as a home port state.” (Read the whole article here: NOAA ’13 report is bleakest yet)

Local advocacy groups including the Northeast Seafood Coalition and the Gloucester Community Preservation Fund are continually working to find tangible solutions to help industry members through to the other side of this crisis.  We will continue to cover the issues as they unfold with particular emphasis on the fallout felt by local industry members, who need our support now more than ever.