Members of Congress from New England have long pushed for common sense when it comes to regulations governing commercial fishing in the coastal waters. The dwindling number of many fish stocks is a fact that cannot be ignored. But the fact that so many people in the region make their money from the sea cannot be ignored either.
Last week New Hampshire U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte recommended changes to the mid-Atlantic Magnuson-Stevens Fishery and Conservation Act — the 37-year-old federal law that is meant to maintain stock and habitat at sustainable levels. In recent years that's meant strict catch limits for Atlantic cod and haddock.
While the catch limits have allowed the populations of certain fish species to rebound, the massive reductions in fishing limits like the ones imposed earlier this year could well be a death knell to segments of the fishing industry in New Hampshire and Maine.
In May federal regulators cut by 78 percent the number of cod that can be caught in the Gulf of Maine from now through 2015.
"I don't know a business that can go with a 78 percent reduction and survive. This is a matter of survival," Ayotte said last week. She's right.
Ayotte wants to see Magnuson-Stevens revised in a way that ensures any call for mandated reductions can be backed up by sound scientific data. Right now Ayotte believes that the data being used to justify the latest reductions is extremely debatable.
We also agree with Ayotte that given the enormity of reduction the Commerce Department should have, at the very least, approved interim regulations that would have set this year's catch limit at a level that would allow the fishing industry to survive.
Commercial fishing in New Hampshire generates $106 million a year in economic activity and supports about 5,000 full- and part-time jobs. The fact that the reduction includes cod is particularly severe for New Hampshire fishermen as cod accounts for more than 90 percent of their revenue.
Read the full story at the Foster's Daily Democrat>>
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