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New England Fishermen Brace For Drastic New Catch Limits

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GLOUCESTER (CBS) – Roger Brisson didn’t plan on retiring just yet, but a new limit on Gulf of Maine cod fishing has the Gloucester fisherman putting his boat up for sale. “It’s probably going to put me out,” he says.

The New England Fishery Management Council hopes its proposed limits help the declining fish stock recover. Once the federal government approves the new restrictions, fishermen will have to cut their Gulf of Maine cod catch by 77 percent, and Georges Bank cod by 66 percent.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Anthony Silva reports

“All of a sudden, they dropped a big bomb on us,” says Brisson. New England would be limited to 7.8 million pounds per year total. Compare that to a decade ago, when fishermen hauled in 44 million pounds of cod.

Vito Giacalone with the Gloucester Fishermen Preservation Fund says he thinks the industry is being destroyed by such Draconian measures.

“When we look back at this 20 or 30 years from now, if we haven’t destroyed the fisheries by then, I think we’re going to find we’ve been operating like the world was flat. I don’t think we’re measuring the right things out there,” he says.

Giacalone says while the dogfish population has been protected, he thinks dogfish may be destroying the groundfish.

If fishermen go out of business, that puts the squeeze on wholesalers like Paul Movalli of Intershell in Gloucester. “If you don’t have product, you don’t make payroll. It’s that simple.” That trickles down to workers like George Almy, who used to have a full-time job cutting fish. “I haven’t had 40 hours since November,” he says.

Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk tells WBZ’s Anthony Silva that her city is getting hit hard by this decision, and it’s not just the fishermen.

“We need a critical mass of commercial vessels, in and out of this port to support the port’s economy,” Kirk tells me. “The marine railways, the shore side businesses, the fuel stations, the docks, etc. We as a city need a lifeline to be able to support a working port.”

Kirk says she’s not sure what to tell fishermen in her city.

“One fisherman just came through our website, saying I have one more mortgage payment I can make, and then I’m done. What can I do?”

To make matters worse, bad news from Washington. Lawmakers had set aside 150 million dollars in federal disaster aid for fishermen. It was tacked on to Hurricane Sandy relief funding, but the fishermen’s portion was deleted earlier this month.

Industry experts say we’ll all feel the effects in our wallets, when cod prices rise in the spring.

WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager and WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Anthony Silva contributed to this report.

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