Charter boat owners see jump in cancellations as cod ban takes effectBy KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent
August 01. 2017 9:57PM
A new rule that recreational anglers in the Gulf of Maine can’t keep cod they catch is putting the squeeze on the charter boat industry, business owners say.
Capt. Don Taylor runs a six-person charter boat out of Rye Harbor. He said he can see the scientific reasoning behind imposing the restriction, but says it is causing people to cancel their reservations — even though they can still keep haddock, cusk and hake.
“I don’t think not allowing us to have one cod per person on a boat is going to make any difference at all. That’s my opinion on it,” Taylor said. “I think they’re going a little overboard, myself, and it’s hurting the charter boat industry.”
Allison Ferreira, who is in charge of communications for the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office in Gloucester, Mass., said the reason for the restriction is that recreational fishermen exceeded their cod catch limit by 92 percent last year.
Federal officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use estimates from the Marine Recreational Information Program to determine if a population is being overfished. In addition to getting reports from charter boat captains, they survey individuals who go out on their own boats.
“The cod fisheries are still not doing well,” Ferreira said.
Officials have also reduced the number of haddock that fishermen can keep from 15 to 12, and the fish must be at least 17 inches long. That daily limit was reduced because, Ferreira said, even though the haddock population is doing better than cod, officials have determined that recreational fishermen exceeded their haddock catch limit by 15 percent last year.
Jim Cholette of Concord was out on his boat, Sea Horse, in Rye on Tuesday. He reported seeing cod and haddock, which tend to run together.
“It’s so crazy,” Cholette said of the restriction.
Last year during open season, which ran from Aug. 1 to Sept. 30, people were allowed to keep one cod per day, Ferreira said.
Keper Connell, the owner of Clandestino Fishing Charters in Rye Harbor, said if the restriction isn’t lifted, he simply can’t afford to run his six-person boat next year.
Connell said business is already down 40 percent from last year, and customers are upset when they find out they have to throw cod back, even though they catch plenty of them.
“There are some days we can’t get away from them,” he said of cod.
Connell has licenses for lobster and tuna. He says he is relying on that to make money this fishing season.