Update: NOAA & Industry Members find common ground on changes to cod allocations


A few weeks ago, we highlighted a news story about ongoing discussions between NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and local industry members over the current debilitating cuts to local cod quotas.   Given the multi-species nature of our local fishery, limiting the cod catch to the extent currently mandated under the law creates an impossible situation for our local fishermen.  Although skilled fishermen are generally able to target one species over another, the drastically low cod quota means that a single trawl may put an individual fisherman over his quota.  With strict rules and harsh enforcement measures, many fishermen have decided the gamble of exceeding their quota in a single tow is simply not worth the risk.  Even those who have slightly higher quotas and are able to fish a few tows are still severely restricted. Safety is also an issue, with fishermen travelling further in dangerous weather to avoid areas known to be rich with cod.

In response to the interim emergency measure on cod passed by NMFS back in November, local industry advocates proposed 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.  As noted at the end of last month, this proposal was flatly denied by acting NOAA regional administrator John Bullard on first pass.  However, on the urging of many local industry advocates, the proposal was once again brought to the table for reconsideration.  The Gloucester Daily Times reports:

“…a coalition of industry stakeholders and sector managers seem to have done something extraordinary: convince the federal fisheries management regulator to reconsider a policy deemed by fishermen to be overly restrictive, dangerous and economically unfair.

Both sides conceded that the ultimate compromise on the emergency cod measures represents a departure from the way they usually interact and the oft-abrasive tenor their color their discussions.

‘They deserve credit for reconsidering the measures and putting it back out there for comment,’ Vito Giacalone, executive director of the Gloucester Fishing Community Preservation Fund, said of NOAA’s decision to revisit the emergency measures it instituted in the belief that the Gulf of Maine cod stock required immediate and sweeping protections. ‘Hopefully, this will help open their eyes and see what the sectors can do to help solve some of these problems.'”

You can read the whole article and follow updates at the Gloucester Daily Times by clicking here.