Emergency action sought to protect cod

New restrictions could further endanger struggling industry

FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2013 file photo, fishermen Ed Stewart, left, and Tannis Goodsen mend groundfishing nets on Merrill Wharf in Portland, Maine. The nets will be used to catch ground fish such as haddock, flounder and cod. The federal New England Fishery Management Council's Groundfish Oversight Committee recommended on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, a battery of emergency restrictions to protect the Gulf of Maine's declining cod fishery. The restrictions include new prohibitions on some commercial groundfishing vessels, and would prohibit fishing by private recreational and charter boats in the spawning closure areas. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

BOSTON (State House News Service) – The New England Fishery Management Council recommended an emergency action Wednesday to protect the stock of Gulf of Maine cod in the current fishing year, which ends May 1, 2015.

Specifics of the plan to protect the species would be worked out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and a final vote will not occur until a mid-November meeting in Newport, R.I., according to the NEFMC, which said the request for emergency action passed 14-3. The recommendation made at a meeting in Hyannis would be considered by NOAA, and NEFMC said implementation is expected in November.

Dire warnings have emanated from both the environmental community and the fishery, which warns more stringent catch limits and restrictions on where to fish could spell the end of an industry that pre-dates European settlement of New England. “NOAA Fisheries must act to protect cod in the short term. But for cod to truly come back what’s needed is broader protection for the habitat they need to recover from chronic overfishing,” Pew Charitable Trusts Director of Northeast Oceans Peter Baker said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the council is still considering reductions in habitat protections, a move that would perpetuate failed policies of the past. The New England council should move promptly to ecosystem-based fisheries management in order to bring the best science into decisions about our ocean resources.”

Cod limits have the potential to affect fishing boat skippers trawling for other species, because even though skippers use their knowledge to seek out the fish they are after, the nets pull up a hodge-podge of fish.

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