A scientific meeting Friday in Boston to recommend 2013 catch limits of depleted Georges Bank yellowtail flounder heard a surprise, impassioned plea from New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell not to cut the catch. Reading from a letter co-written the day before with Mayor Carolyn Kirk of Gloucester, Mitchell said, “If implemented the forecasted cuts would deal a crippling blow to the groundfish and scallop industries and eliminate hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs.”
The flounder, a valuable fish on its own, is also a major by-catch in the scallop industry that has made New Bedford the richest port in the United States. A curtailment of yellowtail fishing could force dramatic scalloping shut-downs, and when the New England Fisheries Management Council and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration earlier this month announced possible severe cuts, the Massachusetts congressional delegation called for disaster relief for fishermen.
Friday, after the council’s statistical and scientific committee presented assessment data at the Seaport Hotel showing that the biomass of yellowtail flounder remains low after a crash in 1995, Mitchell contended that the science remains too uncertain to potentially “wreak havoc on traditional fishing communities.” He added that the calls for disaster relief is “not the immediate answer. They’re more like reparations, more akin to telling someone whose house is on fire, ‘Here’s some more insurance,’ instead of giving them a hose to put out the fire itself.”