By Becky W. Evans
New Bedford Standard-Times
NEW BEDFORD — Even with its groundfishing fleet on the verge of collapse, the Port of New Bedford is being recognized for landing the nation’s largest value of seafood in 2008, primarily due to sea scallops that sold for nearly $7 per pound.
It is the ninth consecutive year that the city has been named the top port in terms of the dollar value of its catch, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service, which on Wednesday released statistics on U.S. commercial fishery landings.
In 2008, New Bedford fishermen landed 146.4 million pounds of seafood for a total value of $241.3 million. Scallops harvested from the ocean floor accounted for about 17 percent of the port’s seafood landings and about 73 percent of their value.
According to NOAA Fisheries, the average off-the-boat price for scallop meats was $6.91 per pound in 2008 as compared with $6.59 per pound in 2007. For Atlantic cod, the average off-the-boat price was $1.61 per pound in 2008 and $1.60 per pound in 2007.
Even with its No. 1 ranking, New Bedford’s seafood landings decreased in weight and value.
Landings were down 3.6 million pounds and dropped $27.6 million in value from the port’s 2007 catch.
NOAA Fisheries spokeswoman Monica Allen said the drop in value was primarily due to about an 18 percent decrease in scallop landings between 2007 and 2008. She said she did not know the reason behind the lower landings.
Richard Canastra, co-owner of the Whaling City Seafood Display Auction, attributed it to the fact that fishermen had fewer days to fish in 2008 due to restrictive fishing regulations.
“Being number one doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “It only shows the dollar value.”
But others working on the waterfront Wednesday said they took pride in knowing that New Bedford kept its top ranking despite rigid fishing rules.
Jaime Santos, owner of the scalloper Lady of Fatima, said 2008 was a good year overall for the scallop industry, even though he was limited to about 90 days of fishing per year.
“The industry is not so good, so at least we got something going on,” he said as he prepared the vessel for an upcoming trip to Georges Bank. “It’s good to be number one.”
“It’s a good feeling,” said Porfirio Caneira, first mate of the fishing vessel Sunshine, a dragger.
“Scallopers are doing very well compared to draggers. … It’s more of a struggle for us,” he said, noting that his vessel has about 40 fishing days per year.
Caneira, who fished in Alaska 10 years ago, said it was no surprise to him that the Port of Dutch Harbor-Unalaska, Alaska, was named the top port for 2008 fishery landings with its catch of 612.7 millions of pounds. In that category, New Bedford ranked eighth in the country.
Dutch Harbor-Unalaska took second place for seafood value with landings worth $195 million in 2008, an increase of $20.9 million from 2007.
Jim Balsiger, acting assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, attributed part of the long-term success of Dutch Harbor-Unalaska to “the fact that many of the fish species landed there are managed under some of the nation’s most advanced catch share programs.
“Catch-share programs increase fishermen’s safety by eliminating the race to fish,” he said in a statement.
“They ensure sustainable fishing, reduce overcapacity in the industry and improve profitability of fisheries for coastal communities.”
New England fishery managers recently voted in favor of a voluntary catch share program to help manage the region’s diminished groundfish stocks.
Under the program, known as sectors, groups of fishermen would receive a quota of groundfish that they could catch under their own set of rules.
July 23, 2009
Source URL: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090723/NEWS/907230344
By Becky W. Evans