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In letter to Congress, fishermen plead for aid

New England fishermen facing a dire future for their industry asked Congress in a letter Tuesday for immediate help surviving deep and impending cuts to their catch allotments.

The letter, signed by 173 fishermen in ports from ­Connecticut to Maine, came as the industry prepares for May 1 catch reductions that fishermen warn could finish off the fleet. A 77 percent cut in the catch quota for cod in the Gulf of Maine and a 61 percent ­decrease in the cod allotment in Georges Bank are the most significant in an array of 2013 catch reductions on bottom-dwelling groundfish.

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The letter described the situation as ‘‘simply unbelievable’’ after regulators’ rosy promises of healthier fish stocks and economic stability if previous regulations were ­adopted.

‘‘There is no stability,’’ said the letter, which was sent to 14 congressmen and 12 US senators. ‘‘There are only repeated, record reductions in catch limits. Prosperity is a discarded dream. This is a real disaster.’’

The letter blamed ‘‘the failure of government policies and programs’’ to accept that current science is inadequate to manage the fishery.

John Bullard of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noted the catch of cod in the Gulf of Maine is down this year, and the science says cod there are scarce.

Representative William Keating of Massachusetts, who received the letter, said it ‘‘resonates with the desperation of our fishing industry.”

‘‘It is our responsibility as legislators to mitigate this impact as best we can and ensure that Massachusetts’ historic ­industry survives,’’ he said.

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