Where have all the haddock gone?

The new restrictions on New England fishermen mentioned in the article ``Fishermen Say New Restrictions Will Force Them To Scale Back,'' Feb. 7, are now haltingly being put into effect. The article mirrors the views of the vocal fishermen regarding all management proposals and actions since the federal Magnuson Act to conserve the domestic fisheries came into effect in 1976.

To most readers who do not follow this issue there may be some confusion. Perhaps a comparison of past and present haddock landings will help. The National Marine Fisheries Service statistical office has released preliminary catch statistics of haddock landed in New England fishing ports in 1993: about 1.6 million pounds. These haddock were landed by the 500 groundfishing vessels with federal permits to catch groundfish (haddock is classified as a groundfish). A copy of a Jan. 29, 1929, Boston paper gave the landings at the Boston Fish Pier for that day. The 31 vessels landing at the fish pier landed 1,028,350 pounds of groundfish, of which 735,000 pounds were haddock.

In other words, 31 not too technically advanced boats that January day in 1929 in Boston landed about 45 percent of what the 500 technically advanced boats landed during the entire year of 1993.

Who or what is at fault? I hope some of the public will get involved in the discussion. As one who has been both a New England fisherman and a federal and state ``fishcrat'' involved in fisheries management, and an attendee at too many fishery meetings, I can comfortably say I have never met at any of these meetings a vocal person whose primary reason for being there was to speak for and protect the fish. Robert Bruce, Essex, Mass.

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