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New England's Fishery in Decline

Industry leaders, politicians react to sharp depletion of popular food fish like cod, haddock

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FOR at least the 200th time, Peter Mahoney's left hand reaches down and starts the winch on his lobster boat, "Windemere.The trawl line, then the trap attached to the line, snap out of the water. His right hand pushes the cage away from the boat's side. The returning arc elevates it. Chad, his son, muscles the trap on board. Then, with hands surer than the claws of any lobster in the trap, he quickly tosses two "keepers" into the holding tank. Just as quickly, Chad drops five over the side - too small. The ratio is typical. "Those five are the sign of a good fishery," says Mr. Mahoney with a nod and a smile at his son. "We'll catch them later." The same can't be said with such confidence for his counterparts in the fin-fishing industry. In what once were some of America's richest fishing grounds, the catch this past year of New England groundfish - cod, haddock, flounder - was so poor that it totaled only half of traditional production. "If the American farm belt were only growing half the grain and corn it traditionally did, great concern would result," says Jeff Pike, legislative assistant to US Rep. Gerry Studds (D) of Massachusetts. "That's exactly what has happened with the New England fishery."

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