NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) - Fewer fish are being caught off New England coastlines. And it's affecting the bottom line of small businesses in the Pioneer Valley.
Northampton's Webster's Fish Hook has been in business for the better part of 28 years. Its owners say, when it comes to the supply of local fresh fish, they've never seen a year like this one.
Haddock and Cod are two of the most consumed fish among seafood lovers in New England. "Frequently we go and we do buy salmon, shrimp, cod, haddock," said Denise Robinson of East Longmeadow.
They're so popular, this past Christmas Eve, Northampton's Webster's Fish Hook sold 200 pounds of haddock. But new reports show cod and haddock stocks in New England are depleting and harder to find.
"It's been a challenge lately getting good fresh fish especially haddock and cod. The prices have really soared recently. Due in fact to a couple of different reasons, one because of the new regulations in place and two because there really isn't as much fish there as there used to be," said owner Dan Webster.
With four months left to go before the end of the 2012 fishing year, some fishermen have caught less than a third of the haddock they did in 2011. Because of this, regulators are working to establish deep cuts to catch limits, saying fish stocks are not rebuilding.
The New England Fishery Management Council sets catch limits and regulates state and federal waters anywhere from 3 to 200 miles off the coast of five New England states; including Massachusetts. The council recently postponed a decision to set catch limits for the 2013 fishing year; following testimony from fishermen that such action could cripple the industry.
"We've lost enough things in New England. I mean manufacturing and other things. And the fishing industry we might as well try to hold on to that as long as we can if we can," said Dave Foster of Leeds.
Last September, the Secretary of Commerce declared the Northeast groundfish industry a disaster. And now state lawmakers are working to get relief funds. But Webster says it's not all about the money.
"I don't think it's a question of money. I think it's a question of consumers need to start eating other fishes besides haddock and cod. Some people do, like I'll sell catfish but I'll sell one order of catfish to 20 orders of haddock on a Friday night," said Webster inside the Damon Road restaurant.
An estimated 80,000 jobs rely on the fishing industry in Massachusetts.