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Haddock catch limits have been raised for Maine fishermen, but are still down over previous years

In this April 23, 2016, photo David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing aboard his trawler off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethe, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
In this April 23, 2016, photo David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing aboard his trawler off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethe, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Federal regulators have increased the amount of haddock Maine fishermen are allowed to catch this season.

The industry had been facing about a 70% cut in the allowable haddock catch as compared to last season. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has raised those limits by about 30%, a level that regulators say should avoid a potential shutdown of Maine's groundfish fishery but still prevent over-harvesting.

Ben Martens, executive director of the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association, says despite initial stock assessments that suggested otherwise, the Gulf of Maine haddock population appears healthy.

"It does seem as though this is a stock that we're seeing around the coast in different parts of the ocean, and not only in places where fishermen are going to target it," he said.

Martens said managing local fisheries has become more difficult, because federal groups are devoting less time and resources to getting an accurate read of species and their populations. The pandemic, he said, meant that researchers collected a smaller data sample on Gulf of Maine haddock.

"There are big question marks about how we collect and do fisheries science," Martens said. "And they're only going to get more complicated moving forward."

Martens said he expects that managing fisheries will become more volatile, because collecting data about local species is becoming more expensive and more difficult due to climate change.

The new catch limits will be in place through February 2024 but could be extended.