Two proposals by the New England Fishery Management Council could ruin years of recovery efforts for Atlantic cod.
Cod used to be abundant in the Atlantic Ocean, but years of overfishing and poor management have reduced the species to dangerously low levels.
Measures, such as changes in quotas and closures of the fishery, have been in place to help cod recover. Unfortunately, it takes time for a species to recover, and in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, estimates place cod numbers at only three and seven percent of target numbers for the success of management techniques.
The first proposal by the council seeks to reduce protected habitat in New England waters. This would allow more trawling and dredging in the area. In Georges Bank, the proposal would reduce protected habitat by 80 percent.
The other proposal that could harm cod numbers is suspension of observers on fishing vessels. Observers on fishing vessels help ensure that quotas are being followed. Federal funds were previously used to pay for the observers, but the funds for the program are now expiring. The industry had agreed, previously, to pay for the observers after federal funding ended.
While the New England Fishery Management Council has made the proposals, the Department of Commerce and the National Marine Fisheries have the last say on habitat protection and observers.
The fate of the Atlantic cod lies within these decisions.