04/05/2012 03:41 pm ET Updated Apr 06, 2012

Cod Fishermen Face Federal Regulations

Hard times for cod fishermen in New England may become even more difficult with federal regulators reducing the amount of cod they can catch when fishing season begins next month. The cuts take effect May 1st, according to

The measure was passed after contentious debate between fishermen and environmental activists who worried about the dwindling numbers for cod population in the waters. The cut is a sizable one, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration limiting the amount of fish that can be caught in the Gulf of Maine by 4 millions pounds, a 22 percent decrease from 2011. In total, fishermen will not be able to catch more than 14.8 million pounds in the Gulf of Maine for this coming season. With the importance and popularity of cod to the area, it is clear that more than just the fishermen’s livelihood will be affected.

Despite an optimistic outlook for the recovery of the cod population in 2008, a recent assessment shows that the stock of cod is so severely depleted that even shutting down fishing entirely would not achieve the federally mandated rebuilding target set for 2014.

Susan Odell of the Northeast Food Coalition is one of many confused by the conflicting statistics. “Either the new assessment is dead wrong or the old assessment was dead wrong,” Odell told the Patriot Ledger. “There are a number of crucial scientific questions that must be answered.”

“These measures are necessary to respond to the change in stock conditions,” Alan Risenhoover, acting deputy assistant administrator for regulatory programs at NOAA, told “The stock is overfished and is not rebuilding as planned.” Risenhoover believes that this initiative will buy time so that fishermen, scientists and regulators can begin developing a true long-time solution in light of the new figures on cod population. Despite this, further cuts appear certain for 2013.

Whole Foods said they will cease selling cod among other fish, though many believe it will have little effect on the local economy with boats taking “their catch somewhere else.” The grocer firm announced last week it will no longer be selling fish caught "from depleted waters or through ecologically damaging methods."

Only time will tell the effect that the restrictions will have on small business. Recently seafood industry reps were invited to Congress to speak on a panel entitled “Seafood Jobs in America.” Bruce Schactler is from Kodiak, Alaska and is the director of the National Seafood Marketing Coalition which represents 75 industry groups. Schactler says he was stunned by the lack of knowledge in Congress about the seafood industry.

“I had no idea it was as invisible as it actually is,” Schactler told Capital City Weekly. "They had no idea of the dependence of coastal America on local seafood. They've never looked at a boat as a small business.”