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Report Urges Further Fishing Cuts

November 3, 1999

BOSTON (AP) _ As fishing stocks continue to sag despite efforts to boost them, a report released Tuesday recommended more severe fishing restrictions in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank.

The report, conducted by a New England Marine Fisheries Council committee, calls for the closure of some fishing areas and a 50 percent reduction in the number of fishing days.

Tuesday’s report noted that haddock and cod stock on Georges Bank have seen improvements, such as increased fish size. But the number of fish continues to plummet, particularly in the Gulf of Maine, where cod is said to be at a historic low.

The fish simply aren’t reproducing quickly enough to meet federal goals, said Phil Haring, a fishery analyst with the council.

The report calls for reductions in the rate at which several species are caught, including a 56 percent decrease for Gulf of Maine codfish.

Doug Hopkins, senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund in Connecticut, said the number of days at sea needs to be drastically cut to save the species in crisis, particularly the cod.

Priscilla Brooks, a fisheries economist at the Conservation Law Foundation, said in the long term, the fishery will be destroyed unless the council is willing to impose unpopular restrictions.

``We’ll see if they’re going to wake up,″ she said. ``So far, they have failed, I would say.″

Patricia Fiorelli, a spokeswoman for the council, said the gains on Georges Bank show its policies haven’t been complete failures, though she acknowledged the Gulf of Maine cod remains a problem.

The council must consider the economic impact of the restrictions on fishermen and the well-being of the fishery, two elements which often conflict, she said.

``It’s trying to strike that balance, which we’ve not done, that has been very difficult,″ she said.

Recommendations in the report, conducted by the council’s Multispecies Monitoring Committee, will be considered along with proposals by fishing organizations before the council votes on policy for the year 2000.

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