WAKEFIELD - Fishermen's frustration, two decades in the making, exploded in a hotel ballroom Thursday as fishery regulators reluctantly debated devastating cuts to the size of the New England fleet's allowable catch.
“I can’t sleep,” Mark Carroll, a Gloucester fishermen, said to the 18-voting member council before getting up in agitation and facing scores of fishermen seated in the ballroom. “All these people are going to lose their job, this has run amok. I get so upset I can’t think straight ... It’s lights out, it’s over.”
Stone-faced and sympathetic members of the New England Fishery Management Council were listening to fishermen – including pleas not to slash fishing quotas in the range of 50 to 80 percent for some prized stocks, including Atlantic cod and flounder.
Warming waters and a changing ocean possibly related to man-made climate change are contributing to dismal populations of cod and flounder, scientists say. But while overfishing may not be solely to blame, they say the only way to try restoring fish populations is reduce the size of the yearly catch.
Fishermen today hit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees fishery regulation, on several missteps that have widened deep mistrust between fishermen and government scientists -- major errors on a federal analysis of cod off New England; a disrespectful attitude toward a scientist that industry hired, and problems in enforcement that resulted in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration apologizing and returning hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines to fishermen.
Fishermen said the science used to justify fishing cuts is so bad, regulators should ease up on limits until it improves.
“I haven’t told my family this is their last good Christmas,’’ said Paul Vitale, a Gloucester fisherman.
Decisions are expected later this afternoon. For a story I wrote today on the issue go here.
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