Written by Linc Bedrosian
October 31, 2013
It's a happier Halloween than normal here in Portland, Maine, and everywhere else in Red Sox Nation. Our beloved baseball team went from worst to first, capping a remarkable season by winning the 2013 World Series last night, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1. If only New England's troubled groundfish industry could undergo a similar resurrection.
Yesterday, NOAA released its annual report Fisheries of the United States 2012. Data within the report illustrates how the regulations designed to foster rebuilding of key groundfish stocks whose populations are lagging have taken a toll on the fishery.
At first blush, it appears major ports like New Bedford and Gloucester are doing OK. New Bedford landings increased from 117 million pounds in 2011 to 143 million pounds in 2012; however the increase is largely attributed to the thriving sea scallop industry.
New Bedford landings again topped the nation's value totals for the 13th straight year. The port's value total rose from $369 million in 2011 to $411 million in 2012.
In Gloucester, landings rose from 77 million pounds to 83 million pounds. However, the value of Gloucester's landings decreased from $61 million in 2011 to $57 million in 2012.
Moreover, the 2012 report doesn't reflect the massive cuts to key species like cod and yellowtail flounder decreed for 2013 that are devastating the fishery. But the preliminary 2012 numbers do illustrate the difficulties groundfishermen were already facing.
For example, Atlantic cod landings slid from 17.6 million pounds worth $32.6 million in 2011 to 10.5 million pounds worth $22.2 million in 2012. Haddock landings dipped from 12.6 million pounds worth $16.3 million in 2011 to 4.3 million pounds worth $7.8 million.
So can New England's groundfish industry experience the same kind of turnaround in 2014 that the Red Sox did this year? Unless Mother Nature has something up her sleeve, the region's groundfish industry won't undergo a stunning transformation in 2014.
But there is sentiment amongst lawmakers on Capitol Hill to make the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which is up for re-authorization, more flexible. If that happens — and given the inability of this Congress to accomplish, well, anything, it's far from a lock that it will — then there may be a way forward for this historic fishery.
In the meantime, enjoy a little look back at the Sox closing out the World Series. If the Red Sox could rise from adversity to become champions, then maybe better days are ahead for New England's groundfishermen, too.
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