The following excerpt was taken from an Opinion piece that appeared on Seacoast Online, written by John Bullard, the Northeast Region administrator for NOAA Fisheries.
“Mr. Bullard, am I going to make it?” The question, from a Gloucester, Massachusetts, groundfish fisherman, hit me like a brick. It’s a sentiment I heard echoed by other fishermen from various ports throughout my first 6 months on the job as Northeast Regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Service.
For centuries the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank have supported bountiful stocks of cod, haddock and flounder, attracting fishermen from all over the world. Unfortunately today, these fish stocks are just a remnant of what they were only a few decades ago. In fact, two of the most sought after stocks, Gulf of Maine cod and Georges Bank cod, are at just 20 percent and 7 percent, respectively, of sustainable levels — that is levels that would allow those fish stocks to reproduce and keep pace with the number of fish being removed by fishing. The number of young Gulf of Maine cod being born is the lowest it’s been since the 1980s, and cod on Georges Bank aren’t growing as fast or as big as they used to, which means they will produce fewer eggs in the future. At last week’s New England Fisheries Management Council meeting, I heard more than once from fishermen and scientists alike that once-abundant fish in the waters off New England “just aren’t there.”