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New Bedford Fishermen Worried as Shutdown Enters Second Month

A New Bedford fishing boat.
Heather Goldstone

New Bedford fishermen are worried about how catch limits and fishing permits will be affected by the government shutdown, as it enters its 35th day with no end in sight. The shutdown has furloughed many National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) employees, the organization that processes permitting and catch limits. 

Scallop fisherman Eric Hansen said he's worried about what might happen if the shutdown continues into February, as that will begin to impact the start of scallop season in April. 

"I would say mid-February, I would be very concerned, that would give them six weeks basically to get all the permitting done and make sure everything is in place," Hansen said. "Right now our permitting is sitting on a desk in Washington and that has to be done and vetted to get everything ready for April 1st."

He added that the shutdown could also effect next year's harvest, as starting a harvest later in the year will impact next year's stock.  

Janice Plante, public affairs manager for the New England Fishery Management Council, said due to the government shut down, a number of regulations the Council had voted to pass regarding things like herring and groundfish catches may not be passed by NOAA in time for the start of the season.

"Many of our groundfish fishermen are concerned that the framework adjustment that the Council signed off on in December won't be able to be implemented in time for the May 1st start of the fishing year," Plante said. 

Other fishermen have claimed they’ve been prevented from catching over a billion dollars worth of seafood in the past month due to the shutdown.