New restrictions approved
by the New England Fishery Management Council took effect on Monday
which prohibit cod fishing in the waters north of the 42nd parallel
out to the 200 mile limit, an area that includes Provincetown. The closure,
aimed at protecting the depleted Gulf of Maine cod stocks, has Provincetown
fishermen up in arms. Most of the smaller vessels which cannot go offshore
will be forced to travel around the Cape and into waters farther south
traditionally fished by Island and mid-Cape fishermen.
on a balloon," says Jonathan Mayhew, who operates the 71 1/2 foot
dragger Quitsa Strider II out of Menemsha. He says of the Provincetown
fishermen, "They have obligations. They have mortgages. They have
to feed their families. They’re going to do what they need to
do. Wherever they go is where someone else is fishing."
"There’s no cod
down here either," Captain Mayhew says. "We have to laugh
when we hear boats talking [on the radio], boats from Provincetown and
Gloucester, about doing experimental sets down our way. We know it’s
a futile attempt. If you want to fish for cod, the way to go is further
Most of these vessels are
too small or too slow to attempt to fish far from shore. In response
to the crisis in the industry, many of the fishermen remaining in the
Cape and Islands fleets are scaling down their operations, fishing with
few or no crew, smaller boats, and targeting a variety of species to
maximize fishing time.
"I am not targeting
cod for obvious reasons," says Captain Mayhew. He is currently
fishing for yellowtail flounder, but calls himself a "multi-species
fisherman," referring to the diverse nature of the groundfishery.
He criticizes the federal government for failing to "look at the
big picture" in managing groundfish. "The government has pigeon-holed,
micro-managed every species."
Wayne Iacono, a Menemsha
fisherman who now relies strictly on lobstering and shellfishing said
of the cod fishery, "That was our mainstay in the winter until
they got so scarce."
More restrictions on the
beleaguered cod fishery are expected in the coming months.
"I Caught a Boat this Trip"
While dragging for yellowtail
flounder late last Friday aboard Quitsa Strider II, Jonathan
Mayhew made an unusual catch. His trawl net snagged on the propeller
of a 32 foot sunken tuna boat, the Victoria Paige of Point
Judith, RI. After 6 hours of towing the vessel along the bottom, the
vessel finally came free.
"It came to the surface
and sort of breached. After that it towed pretty well," Captain
Mayhew said of the incident.
He radioed the Coast Guard
to ask if they wished to investigate the wreck. He learned that the
vessel had sunk on July 20, 1993, and there had been no fatalities in
the sinking. There was no on-going investigation.
Captain Mayhew kept in touch
with the Coast Guard as the weather deteriorated over night. Finally,
early Saturday after towing the wreck at the surface for two hours,
the shaft of the Victoria Paige’s propeller sheared off
of the engine, and Captain Mayhew was able to haul back his damaged
gear. "She sank pretty fast then."
"I lost about half
my net," he says. With the help of a New Bedford net builder, he
hopes to be fishing again soon.
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