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Fishermen Say ‘Catch Share’ Could Impale Industry

GLOUCESTER, Mass. — At midnight Friday, with the start of the new fishing season, fishermen in Massachusetts will face strict new federal regulations on the number of haddock and other fish they’ll be allowed to reel in.

The program, called “catch share,” or sector fishing, is the government’s effort to fundamentally change the commercial fishing industry in the United States — which is made up largely of independent fishermen.

Under the new regulations, fishermen are encouraged to enter into co-ops, or sectors. Each one is allotted a quota of fish they can catch. Once caught, the fishermen must stop fishing for the season.

Richard Burgess has been a commercial fisherman in Gloucester since the 1970s. In those years, he has watched the fleet here dwindle away. He has managed to survive, but under these new rules, Burgess thinks he may be done for.

“It’s gonna take one boat to make one mistake to put 41 vessels out of business for the year,” he says.

We visited Burgess on Thursday as he prepared his four boats for the new season. We asked how life will change once the new regulations take effect this weekend.

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