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Most Maine Fishermen “Hooked” on New Quota System

May 2, 2011

PORT CLYDE, Maine - This week marks the start of year two of the sometimes-controversial "sector management" plan for commercial fishing in local waters, and catch limits are up for most types of local groundfish.

Gary Libby, a fisherman from Port Clyde, says he prefers the sector management plan, where local fisherman can form co-ops to share annual catch limits on fish like flounder and cod. He says it works better than the old system that put limits on days at sea.

"It's a more relaxed situation; catching higher quality and catching less fish for more money is what happened last year, and I'm hoping that it will continue through the second year."

However, some New England fishermen still oppose the plan. They don't believe they are getting a large enough allocation, though their concerns may have been eased a little by the Marine Fisheries Service, which just upped most local groundfish catch limits.

Senator John Kerry is suggesting rolling over this year's uncaught fish quota to next year, but Peter Baker, manager of the Northeast Fisheries Program for the Pew Environment Group, says the Northeast Fisheries Science Center needs to weigh in first.

"Now, if the Science Center determines that this can be done without setting back the rebuilding of these stocks that have been over-fished in the past, this would be an opportunity for fishermen to make more money next year."

Baker says public input is being sought on a new proposal that would place a cap on the biggest fishing companies so they don't dominate New England waters.

"This is especially important in place like Downeast Maine; it will allow more fishermen to make money in the fishery, and spread a lot of the value of the fishery up and down the coast instead of it being concentrated in the biggest ports like New Bedford, Gloucester and Portland."

Gary Libby says he is glad to see local cod and flounder stocks are in better shape, because that means future income for his family and community.

"My son fishes with me and we are family-oriented, the whole community is, it's more of a community fishery; we don't want to be the last generation of fishermen down there."

Libby says he has to discard fewer legal-sized fish under the new system.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME