An old wooden carving known as "the Sacred Cod" hangs in the Massachusetts State House.
That figurine has stared down at lawmakers for more than two centuries as a reminder of how important cod fishing has been to New England, where generations have made a living by casting their nets out at sea.
"It's the only job I've ever had," said Al Cattone, a Gloucester fisherman, who - like his father and grandfather before him - spent more than 30 years braving the Atlantic's rough waters and cold winds in search of fish.
"It's not so much a job as it is an identity."
But Gloucester, like many coastal towns, now faces the largest cuts ever to the region's commercial fishing industry. An advisory council voted Wednesday to slash cod catch rates by 77% in the Gulf of Maine, a region roughly the size of Indiana that extends from Cape Cod up through Nova Scotia.
That move, analysts predict, is expected to decimate fishing communities across the region and have a domino effect on seafood processors, wholesalers, distributors and retailers who all make a living off the water.
"The impact will be severe," said John Bullard, the regional administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who voted in favor of the cuts.
"It wasn't easy, but it was necessary."
Read - Historic cod fishing cuts threaten centuries-old industry in New England
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Ban those giant floating fish harvesting barges. Have the coast guard sink any non american or canadian vessel fishing in our waters. Problem solved.
Sad story... and one becoming increasingly familiar in diverse fisheries around the globe. In this case, while a few relatively small pockets of fish in healthy numbers remain, overall cod numbers are way down. The cod recovery is taking longer than expected because at this point, the food chain is out of whack. Lobsters and small fish that the adult cod used to feed on have soared in population, and they're preying on cod eggs and juvenile cod. Generations of overfishing took a toll, to be sure. But the real culprit is unchecked and unsustainable human population growth.
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