By Michael Souza
PBN Staff Writer
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank declared a commercial fishery failure in the Northeast groundfish fishery for the May 1, 2013 fishing season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday.
The declaration makes it possible for Congress to appropriate money to relieve the financial hardship to fishermen caused by the fishery disaster. If money is appropriated, NOAA will work closely with Congress and affected states to develop plans to assist coastal communities.
In the past, local fishermen view the declaration with mixed results. Many believe NOAA’s data is incorrect and overdramatized because figures are not reflected with what they see on the open ocean. Many fishermen have already stated that they do not want a handout, just the opportunity to fish.
Much of the Rhode Island fishing community are members of the American Alliance of Fishermen and their Communities and the Rhode Island Fishermen’s Alliance. Richard L. Fuka, president of the alliance, declined comment on the news until receiving more detailed information.
Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee issued a request to the U.S. Department of Commerce, seeking the declaration on Aug. 24. The following day, the state’s four Congressional delegates followed suit.
Chafee’s request complements similar requests made by the governors of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, reflecting the importance of the New England groundfish fishery to all of the New England states.
NOAA released a statement on Aug.2 saying that several stocks are in poor condition and some catch limits for 2013 will be reduced markedly from 2012. NOAA estimates 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, or 94 percent less than 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.