New fishing proposals could eliminate thousands of jobs
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) _ Fishery regulators on Wednesday began reviewing four proposals to reduce fishing effort in New England that could eliminate thousands of fishing jobs and tens of millions of dollars in fishing revenues.
Working under a court-ordered deadline, the New England Fishery Management Council took its first formal look at the proposals, which will result in the most severe fishing cutbacks yet.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the new restrictions in December 2001, when she ruled that the government wasn't doing enough to restore haddock, cod and other groundfish. One of the alternatives must be put in place by next summer.
Lew Flagg, a council member and Deputy Commissioner of Maine's Department of Marine Resources, didn't like what he saw. ``None of them looks good,'' he said.
The first option being looked at would reduce fishing days by up to 65 percent. A typical fishermen has already been cut back to 70 days a year.
The second alternative would reduce fishing days in Gulf of Maine, lower the limit on cod caught per trip on Georges Bank and require extensive gear changes.
Another proposal would develop rules and catch quotas for different geographical areas based on fish found in those areas. The final option would implement ``hard'' catch quotas that shut
down all fishing for certain species once the quota is reached.
The second alternative has the most severe economic effects, costing $88 million in revenues and affecting about 3,058 jobs in the first year, according to the council's analysis. The first
option has the least impact; about 2,140 jobs would be lost, including 316 in lower midcoast Maine.
Supporters say the rules could put the historic groundfish fishery on track toward a sustainable and prosperous long-term future.
``I think if we continue to overfish Georges Bank cod and some of the yellowtail (flounder) stocks, they may never come back,'' said Geoff Smith of the Ocean Conservancy.
But critics say some species are already rebounding and that severe restrictions will be so painful that there won't be enough boats or processors still in business 12 years from now to get fish
to market and reap the rewards.
``You can't assume that all the processors and all the boats are going to wait around until 2015,'' said John Norton, owner of Cozy Harbor Seafood in Portland. ``Those businesses will be gone.''
The council will set the dates for a series of public hearings throughout New England this summer, before they formally vote in November and submit one of the plans to the federal government.