On Wednesday, the New England Fishery Management Council tried to save a vanishing fish population by voting for a 77 percent reduction in the Gulf of Maine’s cod catch for the next three years.
The decision follows long-running population declines for a variety of fish species in the northeastern United States, a region where cod was once so plentiful that an entire Cape was named after the fish. Cod landings in the Gulf of Maine have dropped by 90 percent over the past 150 years and virtually no cod have been caught in eastern Maine for more than 20 years, according to Anne Hayden, Manomet’s coordinator of the Downeast Fisheries Partnership (DFP).
Last week, Hayden and Robin Alden, the executive director of the Penobscot East Resource Center, delivered a presentation in Boston on the DFP’s effort to restore the aquatic ecosystems of Downeast Maine and the communities that depend on them. Alden told the packed room about the partnership that had come together to “build communities that can fish forever.”
Hayden and Alden will deliver the presentation again on February 7 in Brunswick, Maine. They will be joined at the second presentation by Dwayne Shaw, executive director of Downeast Salmon Federation and Ted Ames, the MacArthur award-winning fisherman and scientist whose research has revealed the importance of sea-run fish to groundfish populations.
“The stocks of cod, haddock and flounder that once sustained generations of fishermen in Downeast Maine completely collapsed over 20 years ago and have not recovered,” Hayden said. “Stocks of prey species such as herring and alewives are also in serious decline, while gamefish species such as Atlantic salmon are now listed as endangered and others like shad and smelt are listed as species of concern.”
The partnership intends to restore the fish prey by improving fish passage, restoring degraded habitat and stocking locally raised, river-specific juveniles. The project will also attempt to limit the impacts of fishing on spawning and nursery habitat on the coastal shelf, establish a stronger role for fishermen in management of the resource and develop new markets for the products of diversified, small-scale fisheries.
The Brunswick lecture will be held at the Frontier Café and will begin at 5:30 pm. The event is free but registration is required. Sign up at http://downeastfisheries.eventbrite.com/#.
– Dave McGlinchey