Cape Cod fishermen hoping for a lifeline as the region faces ongoing cod shortages

The US government has pledged $75 million to fishermen after declaring a fisheries disaster in 2012

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The Independent US

The fishermen of Cape Cod have been forced to approach the American government for a bailout to save the region’s fishing community.

Falling catches, caused by a combination of overfishing and a predatory seal population, are driving many fishermen out of business, The Telegraph reported.

Permits worth £50,000 ($85,000) just five years ago are now barely worth the paper they are printed on, as the community faces a shortage of the fish that is its namesake.

61-year-old fisherman John Cuttle, who started catching dogfish after cod numbers declined, told The Telegraph that the future of the fishery was unstable.

"It just isn't worth going out for the fish right now," he said.

"The quotas were cut by 70 per cent last year, so it is not really viable for small boats. The stocks are very depleted. I can't predict the future but things aren't looking very good at all.

"About 15 years ago there were around 60 boats, now there is just a couple going up to the Gulf of Maine."

Cape Cod is a peninsula that reaches out into the Atlantic Ocean from the state of Massachusetts. It was so called after explorer Bartholomew Gosnold discovered copious amounts of cod off its shores in 1602.

Cod fishing is integral to the local economy – but now the industry is in crisis.

The United States declared a fisheries disaster in the Northeast, Alaska and Mississippi in September 2012.

And in January, the American government pledged $75 million (£45 million) in disaster assistance to fishermen.

Cape Cod workers are now appealing for a share of this money, which could be used to buy back permits, which would allow some fisherman to wait until stocks recover or, alternatively, leave the business altogether.

"We are now facing a disaster. It was declared an emergency by the federal government in May," Dr David Pierce, deputy director of state's marine fisheries division, told The Telegraph.

"There is a shortage of cod and flounder. The reasons why are not completely clear.

"Coastal waters appear to be warming up and the cod was already at the southern end of its normal range."