Feds cut cod catch by 22 percent

Posted Wednesday, April 4, 2012 in News

Feds cut cod catch by 22 percent

On Monday, federal officials enacted severe cuts in how much Gulf of Maine cod fishermen can catch. But fishermen are breathing a sigh of relief ... it could have been worse.

The 22 percent cut from what fishermen were allowed to catch last year takes effect May 1.

The catch reduction will cause major problems for the Maine industry, which has been preparing for this since data released last year showed that cod had declined far more than originally thought. However, regulators could have cut the catch by 85 percent this year, which would have decimated the New England fishing fleet, probably permanently.

The relief is going to be short-lived, though. Because there is some flexibility in the nation's fisheries laws, the regulators can move to end overfishing in two years, rather than one. The devastating regulations will be pushed back to 2013. Even so, fishermen are welcoming the reprieve.

Deep cuts in the cod catch threaten the entire New England industry because cod and other bottom-dwelling groundfish, such as haddock and flounder, swim among each other. The only way to protect cod is to severely restrict the catch on the numerous fish they mix with.

Just four years ago, scientists said the Gulf of Maine cod population was robust and headed to full recovery. But last year, scientists released data indicating cod was recovering so slowly the population couldn’t rebuild to federally mandated targets by 2014.

Regulators considered cutting the Gulf of Maine cod catch from 8,500 metric tons in the 2011 fishing year to just 1,300 metric tons this year. But the cut announced Monday instead reduces the allowed cod catch to 6,700 metric tons this fishing year, putting off the major hit until 2013.

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