Aid for New England fishermen

The federal office that oversees fishing said yesterday that it would provide $16 million to help New England’s fishing industry transition to a new management system, two days after a round of fishing restrictions were announced.

The money will not go to individual fishermen affected by the new rules, which slice fishing revenue by $17.4 million, or 9 percent, but to a regional effort to develop a new way of fishing.

The new plan gives groups of fishermen a total amount of fish they can catch each year, but lets them figure out how much – and when – each can catch their allotted amount. There are already two such programs in New England, and 17 more proposed.

“The resources announced today will help the region transition to a better future, a future characterized by healthy fisheries and healthy oceans,” said Patricia Kurkul, Northeast regional administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Of the $16 million, $6 million will be given to projects that help fishermen and scientists work together to improve surveys of fish stocks and test fishing gear to target healthy fish populations. The remaining $10 million will be used to develop systems to better monitor fishing and catches.

Monday’s decision by NOAA was gentler than expected for fishermen who pursue bottom dwelling fish such as cod and flounder but still, many said, strict. While many stocks of fish are bouncing back off New England’s coast, some are not doing it fast enough to meet a federal timetable. Federal officials tightened rules for catching several species, but also allowed fishermen to go more aggressively after a healthy haddock population.

NOAA also announced a grants and assistance program that may be available to communities and fishermen affected by the economic downturn.

Jackie Odell, executive director of the Northeast Seafood Coalition, an industry group, said in an e-mail that the money is “definitely needed” to help ease into the new management scheme. Still, she said, “It does nothing to solve the immediate economic situation” from Monday’s decision.