A legislator who has long been a champion of the region's fishery is calling on officials in Washington to get their act together lest this vital industry be replaced by "an aquarium off our coast."

Mismanagement of the resource, Sen. Bruce Tarr told members of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce has led to devastation within the fishing community here and elsewhere. The problem: Too many decisions have been made based on faulty logic rather than reliable science.

"We are facing a catastrophe in the making," the Gloucester Republican and Senate minority leader told business people meeting at the Ipswich Country Club Wednesday morning. As a result, he said, the region's fishing fleet is in decline (Gloucester's has lost 20 percent of its boats in recent years) and the native seafood for which this part of the country is famous is becoming an increasingly rare commodity.

Tarr cited a recent study showing an alarming drop in the number of cod — the Bay State's iconic fish — despite efforts that have been underway to stabilize that population for more than a decade. Clearly something isn't working, he noted. It was a somber moment in an otherwise upbeat talk by the veteran lawmaker.

Tarr, whose district includes parts of North Andover, is optimistic, for instance, regarding the jobs and other economic gains to be had from the introduction of casino gambling. But the croupier, parking attendant and other positions the casinos create won't replace the economic engine that was our historic and once-thriving fishery.

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