New England fishermen protest federal regulations

New England fishermen facing a dire future for their industry asked Congress in a letter Tuesday for immediate help surviving deep and impending cuts to their catch limits.

The letter, signed by 173 fishermen in ports from Connecticut to Maine, came as the industry prepares for May 1 catch reductions that fishermen warn could finish off the fleet.

A 77 percent cut in the catch limit for cod in the Gulf of Maine and a 61 percent decrease in the cod limit in Georges Bank, off southeastern New England, are the most significant in an array of 2013 catch reductions on bottom-dwelling groundfish.

The letter described the situation as “simply unbelievable” following rosy promises by regulators of healthier fish stocks and economic stability if previous regulations were enacted.

“There is no stability,” said the letter, which was sent to 14 regional Congressmen and 12 U.S. Senators. “There are only repeated, record reductions in catch limits. Prosperity is a discarded dream. This is a real disaster.”

The letter blamed “the failure of government policies and programs” to accept that current science is inadequate to effectively manage the fishery. It said the fleet has fished within government-set catch limits on every species for nearly a decade.

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