, Newburyport, MA


May 2, 2014

Our view: All quiet on the waterfront

It was generally quiet on the waterfront yesterday — and that’s not good.

In years past, North Shorefishermen and those gearing up to work as crew members aboard boats in the local groundfishing fleet might have been working feverishly to prepare for the start of the new commercially permitted fishing year, which dawned yesterday.

There might have also been some enthusiasm, as fishermen and workers at Gloucester’s waterfront landings stations prepared to pick up the pace as a new season bore promise of increased revenues.

That’s not the case this year — just as it wasn’t last year. And it’s hard to picture when there may be that sense of optimism for a new year’s beginning again.

As the 2014 fishing year begins, some longtime fishermen have sold their boats and bowed out of actively seeking the new year’s catch. Others have set aside their boats for a while; they’ll finish up in the land-side jobs they’ve landed before venturing back out to sea to use their minuscule catch allocations. And the crews? There are virtually no crews. The “luxury” of bringing along helping hands was among the first cuts many fishermen had to forego for economic reasons last year.

Yes, there is the promise of federal “disaster” aid to come — some $75 million for fisheries across the country, with $33 million of it rightfully pegged for the teetering New England groundfishing industry, rooted, in large part in Gloucester. And let’s not forget that, while our federal government has extended a measure of disaster aid, that declared “economic disaster” — first recognized in November 2012 — preceded the catastrophic catch limit cuts that hamstrung the industry last year. And those dire limits, with cuts of up to 78 percent from the allowable landings in 2012, remain in place for the new year that began yesterday.

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