US cod catch could soon make a comeback, NOAA says

Published on
January 19, 2018

Atlantic cod catch in the United States was recorded at an all-time historical low in 2016, but a rebound for the fishery may be on the horizon, according to officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

Once a hallmark of New England’s commercial fishing sector, the Atlantic cod fishery has suffered plummeting catch volumes due to overfishing and environmental changes over recent years, The Associated Press reported, via The Bangor Daily News. However, cod stocks are showing some promising signs for the upcoming season, NOAA officials said, and quotas are on track to increase slightly in spring of 2018. 

Cod fishermen in the Gulf of Maine and on Georges Bank can expect a bump in their quotas come 1 May. That's a step in the right direction, Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, said.

“The quotas are so constraining that there’s not a lot of opportunity and interest in targeting cod,” Martens told the Associated Press. “But we’re headed in the right direction.”

Considered a “choke species” by fishermen, once cod quotas are reached, fishing must cease outright. As such, many fishermen have been avoiding cod altogether, the AP reported. 

Recent marine analysis has indicated more abundance of cod in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, Jamie Cournane, groundfish plan coordinator with the New England Fishery Management Council, an arm of NOAA, told the AP. Such figures have prompted the council to propose doubling the commercial cod quota for both New England areas to nearly 3.9 million pounds, a move that’s still awaiting U.S. Department of Commerce approval, Cournane said. 

“It appears that federal information suggests there have been some recent increases, but we’re not sure how long that’s going to last,” she added. 

In the early 1980’s, the U.S. cod fishery – based predominantly out of Massachusetts and Maine – brought in more than 100 million pounds of fish, a stark contrast to 2016, when just 3.2 million pounds were delivered to market. Recently, due to low harvest numbers at home, the American market has become increasingly more dependent on receiving cod imports from Iceland and Russia. 

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