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Fishing Industry At Risk Of Disappearing In New England

GLOUCESTER (CBS) - The industry that built New England is at risk of disappearing. Fishing has always been a mainstay, but things have drastically changed. Environmentalists say global warming has depleted fish stocks. Fishermen argue there are fish, and regulations that defy common sense.

"It's killing me," says Joe Orlando. "I come down to the dock every day and look at my boat rusting away."

Joe Orlando has fished off Gloucester his whole life. A couple years ago WBZ-TV was at sea with him and his son. At that time he said federal regulators were hurting business. Now he says they're ending it. All because federal scientists say there is no cod left in these waters.

"It's not about fish, we just want to know why they are doing this to us," Orlando says. "We have no trouble catching fish. Something is wrong some place."

One fisherman told WBZ-TV that everybody has their boat up for sale. Another said, "A lot of the regulation I see serves no purpose other than to put me and my fellow fishermen out of business."

Ten years ago feds told fishermen to catch less cod. They did.

They were told to buy permits that were hundreds of thousands of dollars. They did.

Feds installed black boxes to track every boat. Fishermen even had to ask permission to go fishing. They did that too.

All because they were told by 2014 the fish would be back and all would be well. Not true. Because federal scientists now say the cod is gone.

"You base all the management on best available science, now does that mean perfect science, of course not there is no such thing as perfect science," says John Bullard of NOAA.

According to Bullard, the science says there is no cod. As a result they have cut the catch limit for fisherman by 78 percent.

Al Cottone says he recently caught his annual quota of five thousand pounds of cod. Not in a month or week, but in just five hours.

"There's no cod out there," says Bullard. "It's not about science being right or wrong."

Massachusetts senior Senator Elizabeth Warren recently held a hearing to listen to fishermen and scientists plead their cases. "I'm not comfortable at all with the science," Senator Warren said. "We are in a crisis here, and we should have had disaster relief nearly year ago."

Declared a disaster last year, yet fishermen say they've seen not one penny of aid. Instead a new regulation that they say only hurts them more. NOAA wants observers to go on board all fishing boats, and want the fisherman to pay $600 to $800. Joe Orlando says on a good day he only makes $300.

Bullard says, "There's documented science that says if you don't have observers the information you get isn't the correct information."

Gloucester used to be home to hundreds of fishing boats, now there are less than 30 and almost all of them are for sale. As for fresh fish they would bring to port, now nearly 90 percent of our fish isn't caught fresh, it's imported.

"Who's going to catch these fish at the end?" asks Orlando. "The whole system is broken down."

Orlando recently sold his boat and says his fishing career is over.


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