Fisheries council fails to tackle cod problem
By Doug Fraser
HYANNIS — Fishery regulators requested emergency action by the federal government Wednesday to deal with the rapid decline of Gulf of Maine cod stocks.
As many as 80 percent of legal-size Gulf of Maine cod die each year from fishing and natural causes.
The stock, however, is not being adequately replaced because there are fewer spawning fish. In the most recent population analysis, National Marine Fishery Service scientists determined that spawning size Gulf of Maine cod is just 3 percent of what is considered healthy and sustainable. Since 2008, the spawning stock of these cod has declined sharply to record lows, just one-fifth of what they were six years ago.
Georges Bank cod may not be in much better shape, with estimates that it has just 8 percent of what is considered a healthy amount of spawners.
"I wouldn't throw in the speculative towel on the future ability of this stock to recover, but it is at a very low level," NMFS fishery scientist Paul Rago warned the New England Fishery Management Council meeting at the Cape Codder Resort and Spa in Hyannis on Wednesday.
The council wrestled all day with what has become a regulatory tightrope: How to save cod without irreparably damaging an already hurting New England fishing fleet.