With Gulf of Maine cod plummeting, groups call for fishing ban


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
March 4, 2015

With fish population levels only at 3 to 4 percent of what a “well-managed stock” should be, NGOs are calling for the U.S. federal government to call off fishing for Atlantic cod in the region in hopes of recovery.

The once-plentiful fish have declined in 90 percent since 1982 when monitoring began, and 77 percent in the past five years alone. That’s why the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and other groups petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) today to end targeted fishing for Gulf of Maine cod.

“The giant cod catches of yesteryear are over — these poor fish have been exploited to commercial extinction,” said the Center’s Catherine Kilduff. “For cod to live on as a symbol of New England’s prosperity and perseverance, they have to live on in our ocean. It’s time to help bring back Gulf of Maine cod.”

Filed under the Administrative Procedure Act, the petition urges NMFS to follow the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act requirement to rebuild overfished species.

“A long history of overfishing New England cod has brought us to a tipping point — either reverse the decline now or say goodbye to Gulf of Maine cod,” said Dr. Doug Karpa of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “Fishing sustainably can allow a cod comeback, but there’s no time to lose.”

“The Atlantic cod is more than a fish,” said Dr. Thomas Armbruster, founding president of the SandyHook SeaLife Foundation. “The fishery brought such wealth to New England that it became a cultural icon and an integral part of our American history. Now we must find ways to save this fish for future generations. Today’s decisions matter — difficult though they may be.”

The NGOs want the government to prohibit fishing for Gulf of Maine cod, allowing catch only incidental to other targeted fish, and reduce such bycatch to levels that allow the cod population to rebuild.

“The collapse of cod populations has cost tens of thousands of jobs, devastated fishing communities, and transformed the North Atlantic food web,” said John Hocevar, a marine biologist with Greenpeace. “We will not be able to restore the health of our ocean and the coastal communities which depend on it until we take the steps that the data show us are necessary.”

Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500