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Cod could choke catch of other fish

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Quota cut will make it difficult to target healthier stocks

·         By Sean Horgan Staff Writer

 

It's been a long road to setting final groundfish catch limits for the next three years in the Northeast Multispecies groundfishery and the journey isn't quite over yet.

The New England Fishery Management Council approved the management framework that sets Northeast multispecies groundfish catch limits for 2020-2022 earlier this month. And local groundfishermen are looking at significant increases in several flounder stocks, American plaice and haddock.

But the state of the cod fishery in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank remains a point of contention.

"Overall, it's pretty rosy," said Jackie Odell, executive director of the Northeast Seafood Coalition. "But the real issue is codfish, with catch limits that are going to be limiting and constricting when fishermen try to target other stocks."

The council approved a 32% cut to Georges Bank cod to 1,073 metric tons per season and slashed the annual catch limit for Gulf of Maine cod by 24% to 275 metric tons per season.

Fishing stakeholders say those cuts reflect the continuing deep divide between what fishermen are seeing with cod on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine and what NOAA Fisheries scientists include in their projections and assessments.

They also say the cuts will make it even more difficult to target healthier stocks without tremendous cod bycatch.

"The real question for us is how is the recreational and commercial fisheries going to stay away from cod and still harvest these other stocks?" Odell said. "How long are fishermen going to have to avoid areas with cod and keep pretending they don't exist?"

Fishing stakeholders, led by the Gloucester-based Northeast Seafood Coalition and the Associated Fisheries of Maine, did carve out a semblance of a victory when they pushed the council to approve the catch limits, but with caveats:

Fishing advocates questioned the council's Scientific and Statistical Committee's methods — known as control rules — for establishing allowable biological catch for four stocks that are considered healthy and where overfishing is not occurring. 

The council voted to instruct the SSC to revisit the control rules used to set its allowable biological catch recommendations — a metric used to help determine final catch limits — for Gulf of Maine haddock, Georges Bank haddock, American plaice and pollock.

The council action calls for the SSC to present its revisited recommendations at the council's January meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but with another caveat: The council will approve whatever the SSC recommends.

"Whatever the SSC decides, the council will accept," said Janice Plante, council spokeswoman. "They'll do it automatically because no one wants to see a delay in the implementation of the framework this close to the start of a new fishing season."

As the catch limits currently stand, commercial groundfishermen are looking at double-digit increases in annual catch limits for Cape Cod/Gulf of Maine yellowtail flounder (73%), American plaice (79%), witch flounder (53%) and Georges Bank yellowtail flounder (12%).

Beyond cod, they are — pending the SSC review — looking at a 53% reduction in Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic yellowtail flounder, a 33% reduction in Georges Bank winter flounder, a 19% reduction in Gulf of Maine winter flounder, a 26% reduction in white hake, 63% reduction in pollock and a 40% reduction in Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank windowpane flounder.

Pending the SSC review, they are looking at a 16% reduction in Gulf of Maine haddock.

Odell, however, said she expects the council to ultimately increase the catch limit for that stock. 

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Stupid question might not related to these quota....

 

Where do these cod actually go? Throughout USA? Overseas?

 

I mean that's a lot of fish.... 

 

 

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