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Fish for our Future: There is Hope on the Table

May 18, 2009

Boston, MA - Fisheries have been a large part of New England's economy and culture for centuries, but now many scientists are saying that if we don't change the way we fish off our coast, we are in danger of losing our fish populations and damaging our economy.

Peter Baker is the manager of the campaign by The Pew Environment Group to end over-fishing in New England waters, and he says that the current fisheries management system, called "days at sea," has led to less fish and fewer fishing vessels. That system limits the amount of time fisherman can be at sea and the amount of fish that can be caught.

"So it's been a failure for the fish, it's been a failure for fishermen, and we've seen a lot of fishing communities just aced out of the fishery because of this management system. It doesn't allow fishermen to make a living and doesn't allow fish stocks to come back."

While some fishermen are happy with the status quo, Bob St. Pierre has a different vision. St. Pierre, a member of the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association, has been a fisherman on the Cape for more than 20 years, and has been using a new catch-based system for the past two seasons. He says he has seen less waste and more profits as a result.

"It's been a very good experience for me personally; it's nice to be able to leave the dock and target codfish during the time of year when they are economically more profitable."

According to many New England groups and fishing organizations, a new system called "sector allocation," which sets catch limits to allow fish populations to rebuild, monitors fishermen, and establishes community based fishing co-ops, is the best way to move forward. Public hearings on this topic begin next week in Wakefield.

There's more information at www.endoverfishing.org

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA