National Fisherman


Managing to survive

New Englanders are determined to wait out groundfish recovery — one way or the other

By Linc Bedrosian

Groundfishing off New England isn't easy, and it hasn't been for more than a decade. Federal stock rebuilding mandates have triggered increasingly severe fishing restrictions and eroded to a precious few the number of days harvesters can fish each year.

Lagging cod and yellowtail flounder populations have resisted man-made rebuilding timetables. Fishermen, envisioning ever-deeper cuts in their harvests under the current regime, feel compelled to develop alternative management proposals. Nonetheless, the New England Fishery Management Council, now developing the 16th amendment to its fishery management plan for cod and 18 other species, voted in June to focus on adjusting its long-standing days-at-sea regime as needed to meet stock rebuilding demands for 2009.

However, this will not preclude the development of so-called fishing sectors as part of the amendment, a sector being a group of permit holders who receive and manage an allocation of fish.

Indeed, the 19 sector proposals submitted to the council for consideration suggest that despite New England's well-known disdain of quota programs, some harvesters are concluding that there may be no other way out.

"It's the logical business response to an impossible regulatory situation," says Robin Alden, executive director of the Penobscot East Resource Center, in Stonington, Maine. "It doesn't mean it's the right thing for either the fish or the communities."

Meanwhile, the council moved to initiate a 17th amendment to continue development of two more management alternatives, area management of groundfish stocks (which Alden champions) and a point system that would provide an incentive to fish on healthy stocks. The council's immediate focus is on getting Amendment 16 ready to be implemented by May 2009 and then diving into Amendment 17 with the intent of having it ready by May 2010, according to Pat Fiorelli, the council's public affairs officer.

Inside the Industry

The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.

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Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which governs commercial and recreational fishing in the state, got a new boss in January. Charlie Melancon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, was appointed to the job by the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards.

Although much of his non-political work in the past has centered on the state’s sugar cane industry, Melancon said he is confident that other experience, including working closely with fishermen when in Congress, has prepared him well for this new challenge.

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