BOSTON — Federal fisheries managers have officially announced proposed cuts in catch limits that they acknowledge will devastate the New England fleet.
The cuts include a 77 percent year-to-year reduction in the allowed catch of cod in the Gulf of Maine and a 61 percent cut on Georges Bank cod.
Tom Dempsey, a member of the New England Fishery Management Council, said the decision to approve the cuts was painful but necessary, but he also said that the cuts may not do enough to save the current fish stock.
“It doesn’t guarantee that codfish are going come back. Both the Gulf of Maine codfish stock and Georges Bank codfish stock are in bad shape,” Dempsey explained. He cited that Georges Bank only has 7 percent of a healthy codfish stock.
The size of the proposed cuts have been known for weeks, but are now open for public comment until April 15. The 2013 fishing season starts May 1.
The cuts come after poor assessments of the health of cod and other key species. Fishermen say the reductions will force most of the fleet out of business.
Dempsey said fishermen in his home port of Chatham are already struggling.
“We’ve lost 60 to 70 percent of our fishing boats, our groundfishing boats over the last 15 years — just like almost every other port in New England,” he said.
Regulators have offered measures to mitigate the reductions and are also now proposing to allow access to winter flounder in southern New England waters. Regulators say could bring in $5 million in revenues.
With reporting from the WBUR Newsroom and The Associated Press