BOSTON, Massachusetts (NEWS CENTER) - Fishermen from Maine and the rest of New England are calling new federal fishing quotas "a disaster", and say many of them will be put out of work. Their target is new quotas for cod and flounder, which go into effect this week. The cod quota will cut the catch in the Gulf of Maine by 77%, and reduce it by more than 50% on Georges Bank.
That's why fishermen gathered in Boston Monday to demand help from Washington. Fishermen, fishing businesses and politicians called on the U.S. Congress to provide disaster relief for the New England groundfish industry. They say fishermen need financial help to keep them going until fish stocks recover.
Jackie Odell, executive director of the Northeast Seafood Coalition, said "The hardships the fishery will face after May first is unimaginable, we need help."
Members of Maine's Congressional delegation say funding for fisheries disaster relief was put into the Hurricane Sandy relief bill last year, but were ultimately taken out of the bill before it passed.
Representatives of both Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree said they will continue trying to get financial help for fishermen. Massachusetts politicians made similar comments at Monday's rally.
Fishermen say they also want quotas increased. They say there are still enough cod and flounder to catch without doing any harm. They also called on the federal government to change the way it sets and manages the fishing quotas, to allow more flexibility in what one fisherman called a "dynamic, changing" environment.
However, John Bullard of the National Marine Fisheries Service tells NEWS CENTER the fish stocks are in trouble, and the tough quotas are needed to give the time to recover. Bullard said this will cause a lot of pain for the fishermen, and he said the government should provide disaster relief.