The Collapse of the Northeast Fishery

Last week, the US Commerce Department issued a formal declaration of disaster for the Northeastern commercial groundfish fishery, paving the way for federal disaster aid for fishermen and the communities they support.

Behind the declaration is the fact, long apparent to scientists and New England fishermen, that the New England fishery, unable to rebuild due to overfishing, is collapsing.

The declaration, which depends on Congressional approval to take effect, is based on last year's assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that the cod population, a critical commercial species on the Gulf of Maine, was at only 20% of the replacement target.

Findings like that signal 2013 cuts in federal catch limits of 70% or more, hitting fishermen already struggling due to the depletion of New England's fisheries, hard.

The agency has issued fishery disaster declarations for years, but this is the first time fish populations have failed to rebound under active fishery management.  Despite quotas, populations are crashing.

The disaster declaration includes three Alaska fisheries that have suffered a stunning, unexplained decline.

The article from the New York Times.

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