JON MITCHELL: New Bedford: A fishing port like no other
September 30, 2012 -- New Bedford is a fishing port like no other.
Earlier this month, we were named the nation's highest grossing fishing port for the 12th year in a row, and no other port in the country can match our authenticity and history. New Bedford is the real deal.
But at few times in our history has our fishing industry been more threatened. Just a few weeks ago the federal government proposed fishing quotas for next season that would reduce the groundfish catch by 45 to 73 percent.
If implemented, these cuts would be ruinous for New Bedford. Annual groundfish landings in New Bedford are worth $20 million. The scallop industry, which could be severely undermined by groundfish reductions, is worth $400 million. Together the two fisheries account for nearly $1.3 billion in annual economic activity in Greater New Bedford.
Given these numbers, the forecasted cuts would deal a devastating economic blow to New Bedford, permanently eliminating hundreds, if not thousands of jobs on shore and at sea. The cuts would trigger severe social dislocation, with fishing families losing their income streams, homes and identities.
The forecasted cuts and their consequences would be painful enough for New Bedford if the underlying science was beyond debate, but they are unacceptable in light of the growing lack of confidence in the stock assessments, both among fishermen and scientists.
Fishermen have repeatedly told the federal government, thus far to little avail, that the underlying surveys are conducted with the wrong types of vessels and gear and are therefore inaccurate. In addition, over the summer scientists raised serious questions about the model used for the Georges Bank yellowtail flounder stock assessment. Months earlier, the 2011 Gulf of Maine cod assessment, which showed a dramatic negative change from the 2008 assessment, was called into question.
And when the 2011 Groundfish Stock Assessment Updates were conducted, significant unexplained discrepancies (19 to 67 percent deviations) in the estimate of stock biomass were noted for seven stocks. The economic and social stakes for New Bedford are too high to permit severe cuts based on uncertain science.
We must work hard on two other fronts to ensure that fishermen can keep fishing.
Read the full story at the New Bedford Standard Times