Bert Jongerden walked through the refrigerated display room at the city-owned fish auction house Tuesday, where 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of cod were packed in ice and waiting for buyers, a significant amount for an allegedly doomed fishery.
“Look at it all. It’s beautiful,” said Jongerden, general manager of the Portland Fish Exchange.But all that cod should not be there, according to a report last month by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that found the number of cod of reproductive age in the Gulf of Maine has hit an all-time low – only 3 percent to 4 percent of what’s needed for a sustainable fishery.
That’s a sharp decline from an estimated 13 to 18 percent in 2013. Those grim numbers will put pressure on fishery managers to make major cuts to the amount of cod that fishermen can take and that, in turn, would make it harder for fishermen to go after healthy stocks of other groundfish that swim in the same fishing grounds. It is difficult to catch those species without catching cod in the same nets.
Jongerden and fishermen in Maine say landings data in Portland and what they have seen for themselves indicate that scientists are using mathematical models that don’t reflect what’s going on in the ocean. Fishermen have landed nearly twice the amount of cod in the first four months of this season as they did during the same period last year.
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