Feds Declare Fisheries Disaster; DMR Says No Money For a While

ELLSWORTH — Last week, federal officials declared that a disaster existed in the Northeast groundfish fishery, but the impact of the Sept. 13 announcement won’t be felt along the waterfront anytime soon.

The ruling by acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank put an official imprimatur on what New England fishermen and federal fisheries scientists have been saying for months. Stocks of such iconic New England fish cod, haddock and yellowtail flounder are seriously depleted and regulators will have to reduce annual catch quotas significantly to give those resources a chance to rebuild.

“Despite fishermen’s adherence to catch limits over the past few years, recent data shows that several key fish stocks are not rebuilding,” Blank said in a statement announcing the emergency declaration. “Low levels of these stocks are causing a significant loss of access to fishery resources with anticipated revenue declines that will greatly affect the commercial fishery.”

The region’s fishermen are already dealing with catch limits that many say are too low to allow them to make a living. Based on recent stock assessments, catch limits for cod and some other species during the 2013 fishing that begins May 1 could be reduced by as much as 73 percent.

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Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]