Still, codfish aren't about to become an endangered species, according to Sam Rauch, head of the NOAA's fisheries service. Coming restrictions are about protecting the overall size of the cod population and complying with federal law.
Environmentalists say depleted stocks show the region needs time to recover in order to save it.
But fishermen are furious.
They say the law and its targets are largely arbitrary and argue that murky science surrounding fish estimates has given fodder to those willing to let their livelihoods founder.
In September, the Commerce Department declared the Northeast ground fishery a formal disaster, which raised hopes of economic relief that were later dashed in a trimmed-down relief bill for victims of Superstorm Sandy.
Confronted with possible drops in domestic cod supply, industry analysts say U.S. consumers will likely look elsewhere, importing more from other countries such as Norway and Canada.
But the danger, they say, is a loss of U.S. market share. And for men like Robillard and Cattone, that shift has already occurred.
"I call it the systematic castration of the groundfish fleet," said Cattone.
But the 47-year-old man from Gloucester also said he never gave his son -- who's now in college -- the option to fish in the way that generations of his family had.
"I was afraid he was going to fall in love with it the way I did," he said. "It's a shame, but it's something I knew I had to do."