Many independent East Coast fishermen face rough economic seas due to limits in the amount of fish they will be allowed to catch next year.
On Aug. 24, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee wrote to the U.S. Department of Commerce, requesting the state be declared a federal disaster area for the New England groundfish fishery. Should the Commerce Department agree, they would begin to work with Congress to provide financial relief and support to the fishery. Such a declaration could make fishermen eligible for additional loan programs and authorize Congress to provide additional assistance. Groundfish are bottom-dwelling fish and include species such as cod and fluke, staples of the industry.
The state’s four congressional delegates last month sent a similar letter to acting-Secretary of Commerce Rebecca M. Blank.
“We specifically want to underscore the governor’s point that in addition to the direct impact on groundfish catch limits, there will likely be indirect impacts on other fisheries that these same permit-holders, and many other Rhode Island fishermen, also rely on,” said Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Reps. James Langevin and David Cicilline.
Chafee’s request joins others made by the governors of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine in mid-August, stressing the importance of the New England groundfish fishery and all its ancillary services.
In mid-August, Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick asked for $21 million in disaster relief for his state, home to two of the largest ports on the East Coast, Gloucester and New Bedford.
The regulators, the New England Fisheries Management Council and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, released a statement Aug. 2 saying that “several important fish stocks are in poor condition and some catch limits for 2013 will be reduced markedly from 2012.” They estimate the cuts in allowable catch will range from 50 percent to 75 percent.
Based on NOAA’s estimation, there will be cuts of approximately 70 percent for cod, haddock and American plaice. Yellowtail flounder stock cuts are predicted to be approximately 50 percent, which would amount to a 94 percent cut from 2011.
The total allowable catch of Gulf of Maine cod is estimated to take a 72 percent cut from the current year, while the catch limit for Georges Bank cod is projected to be cut 70 percent. American plaice, or sole, would be cut 69 percent.
There are 108 Rhode Island boats with federal groundfish permits.