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New England fishing quotas for cod, haddock and yellowtail flounder may be cut by 70 percent next year due to their depleted populations, a U.S. government official said on Thursday.

Fishermen scrambled to come up with an economic plan to protect themselves from any drastic quota reduction, which could make the fish harder to find on restaurant menus and in supermarkets.

Allison McHale, a spokeswoman for the regional fisheries office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said recent studies of fish populations could justify cuts of as much as 70 percent for cod and haddock and 50 percent for yellowtail flounder.

Overfishing is not thought to be the sole culprit.

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