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New Cod Regulations Squeeze More Boats into Smaller Area

Martha's Vineyard Times February 18, 1999


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.

"They’re pushing 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 offshore."

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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