Gerry O’Neill looks at the water world spinning around him, a world of regulation and re-regulation and over-regulation — in other words, the modern world of commercial fishing — and thinks that he’s seen this movie before.

Two days removed from the public comment hearing at the state Division of Marine Fisheries offices on Emerson Street on potential changes to rules governing the scope and the schedule of the herring season, O’Neill sits in his office on Jodrey State Fish Pier and wonders if his two 141-foot mid-water trawlers Challenger and Endeavour and the Cape Seafood fish processing and sales operations that collectively employ almost 40 full-time workers — and even more when the product is flowing — will survive the future any better than the nearly decimated Gloucester groundfish fleet.

“At the end of the day, the groundfishermen are struggling and everybody knows that and it’s because of over-regulation as well,” O’Neill said. “We’re not dying yet. But if they keep doing what they’re doing, we’re going to go the same way as the groundfishermen.”

Given the state of the groundfish fleet, that is a chilling phrase, made even more-so by his matter-of-fact delivery in the soft brogue of his native Ireland and his admission that he favors regulations that will sustain the fishery even when they cost him fish and money.

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