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January 26. 2014 7:19PM

Fisheries report chronicles problems in the Northeast

PORTSMOUTH — A new report from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries released on Friday quantifies the economic problems facing fishermen in the Northeast today.

It is the third year NOAA Fisheries has released the report on the economic performance of vessels active in the Northeast groundfish fishery. The latest report is based on the 2012 fishing year, which ran from May 2012-April 2013.

Landings and revenues were lower in 2012 than in 2011. This was not unexpected given quota reductions in many important groundfish stocks.

According to the report, landings were down 5.4 percent and revenues dropped 7.7 percent, or $25.3 million, for all fish landed from 2011.

There were fewer active vessels, fewer and slightly longer trips, and continued concentration of revenues onto the highest-earning vessels, according to the report.

In addition, more than half of the available quota was not harvested for a variety of reasons, including the challenges of a multi-species fishery. If quota is met for one species of fish, it can make it impossible to fish for other species.

Overall, the total amount of allocated Annual Catch Entitlement, or ACE, for all allocated groundfish species declined 3.6 percent from 2011 to 2012.

The allocated ACE for eastern Georges Bank cod, Gulf of Maine cod, eastern Georges Bank haddock, western Georges Bank haddock, Gulf of Maine haddock, pollock and Georges Bank yellowtail flounder were all cut from 2011 to 2012, and many of those cuts are expected to continue for at least the next fishing season.

Although non-groundfish landings remained nearly constant according to the report, the average non-groundfish price fell 2.6 percent, leading to a 1.9 percent decrease in non-groundfish revenues from 2011.

The top non-groundfish species landed by the groundfish fleet by value were sea scallops, lobster, long-finned squid, monkfish and silver hake.

According to the report, the sea scallop revenue of $90 million accounted for 29 percent of total revenue for all species and 38 percent of revenue from non-groundfish species in 2012.

In New Hampshire, all species revenues were at a four-year low.

Across New England, fishing effort has declined both in the number of vessels with revenue from any species and the number of vessels with revenue from a groundfish trip. The overall number of active vessels has also continued to decline, according to the report.

The number of vessels with revenue from any species fell from 776 vessels in 2011 to 764 vessels in 2012. Since 2009, the number of vessels has fallen 16.6 percent. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of vessels with revenue from a groundfish trip has fallen 29.2 percent.

Overall, there was little good news in the report. The vessels with the most money are catching the most fish, there are fewer job opportunities for crew members, and there is no end in sight to the problem of low fish stocks in the Northeast.

For now, many of the members of the New England states’ Congressional delegations, including New Hampshire’s, are fighting for federal disaster relief for their state’s fisheries. A $75 million appropriation for fisheries disaster relief nationally was included in the recently passed omnibus spending bill but it remains to be seen how those funds will be distributed.

gmacalaster@newstote.com