Cod overfishing report could lead to further regulation –

Cod overfishing report could lead to further regulation Published:  13 December, 2011

A preliminary assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on research showing that cod remains overfished could lead to further federal fishing regulations.

But fishing organisations are disputing this claim.

The analysis claims that even if all cod fishing were banned in the Gulf of Maine, the stock may not be rebuilt by 2018, four years after NOAA had expected it to rebound.

In contrast with a 2008 NOAA report, the new one suggests that the previous assessment may have overestimated the amount of cod by nearly 300 per cent. The spawning stock biomass is closer to 26.5 million lb as opposed to the 2008 estimate of 74.9 million lb.

Fishing organisations say any new regulations could devastate the local fishing industry. They say the government’s calculations are incorrect.

“The preliminary stock assessment is troubling and could have a disastrous effect on our local fishermen,’’ said US Representative John Tierney. “It underscores the continuing need for better data and science upon which to make such important decisions.’’

NOAA Spokesperson Teri Frady insisted that the latest cod study was more solid than the 2008 one and corrected a previous result that an abundant amount of cod were born in 2005.

The final assessment will be released next month, but discussions have already started between the fishing industry and federal regulators on how to sustain the fishing sector.

“The goal is to address the stock status and make sure we don’t overfish the stock,’’ said NOAA spokesperson Maggie Mooney-Seus.

She said the New England Fishery Management Council could further tighten cod fishing. The goal is to let the cod stock bounce back to a sustainable level hearty enough to withstand the amount of fishing that takes place.

“The data is showing us that the amount of fishing effort is five times what we consider sustainable,” she said on Sea Coast Online.

Jackie Odell, executive director of the Gloucester-based fishing lobby Northeast Seafood Coalition, also is pushing for NOAA to review its findings.

“If they don’t look at this in an open-minded capacity and they continue to move forward in a rigid, structured march, then this will be a disaster,’’ she said.

Cod has slowly been rebuilding since its near collapse in the early 1990s, and regulators have since then gradually limited cod fishing. It was slowly reduced to fewer than 30 days at sea; most area cod fishers now work in sectors and pool their catch.