A new, expedited assessment of Gulf of Maine cod will be conducted this year for use in setting 2013 catch limits.

Yet, pending a game-changing surprise, industry analyst, fisherman, banker and businessman Vito Giacalone predicts the industry faces a bleak future that will encourage a continuation of "cannibalism," a word he prefers to the more technocratic "consolidation."

Deep in the news release announcing the 22 percent cut in the TAC for inshore cod for the year beginning May 1, NOAA said it "will also conduct a new assessment of Gulf of Maine cod in 2012, in time to set fishing year 2013 catch limits."

"Whether it is a full benchmark assessment is yet to be determined," NOAA spokeswoman Allison McHale said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "The extent of the new assessment is uncertain" and will be until after the regional council meeting in Mystic, Conn., two weeks hence.

During the 2012 catch limit teleconference announcement on April 2, the new assessment was described as using the same "modeling approach" as was used in the 2011 assessment, which was a benchmark assessment because of changes in the modeling and formulas.

That assessment — based on trawl survey data, commercial landing reports and estimates of recreational landings — landed with shock value, showing that the size of the spawning stock was barely one-third the size found only three years earlier.

There has been no explanation by NOAA of the contradictory assessments, and when U.S. Sen. John Kerry last fall urged NOAA to undertake an emergency assessment to resolve the conflict before setting catch limits for this year, NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco demurred, explaining there was insufficient time.

As described by NOAA last week, the expedited assessment would plug updated catch reports and modified assumptions about the survival rate of discarded fish (now assumed to be zero) into the preexisting formulas.

But McHale emphasized the "extent of the new assessment is uncertain."

Read the complete article in The Gloucester Times