DMF NEWS is published quarterly by the
Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to inform and educate
its constituents on matters relating to the conservation and sustainable
use of the Commonwealth's marine resources
Volume 18 First Quarter January - March 1998
- Looking for Whales in All the
- Fishery Council Nominations
- Acushnet River Estuary PCB
- Polychlorinated biphenyls
- FDA tolerance level and seafood
- Watch for Tagged Winter
- ASMFC Lobster Plan Approved
- New era of lobster management is upon us
- Environmental Police patrol vessel
- DMF and NE Aquarium
win grant to study groundfish longlining
- Table of Contents for
Rules Update including Public Hearings, Regulatory
Updates, and changes to the state's right whale plan
Looking for Whales in All the Right Places
DMF teams up with Center for Coastal Studies scientists
to study endangered right whales
We will have a better understanding of endangered
northern right whales in Cape Cod Bay after this winter and spring
thanks to a DMF contract with the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS)
in Provincetown and Mass. Environmental Trust grants to CCS and other
researchers. CCS scientists were in the air and on the water in January
when right whales arrived in Cape Cod Bay. This research will continue
into spring when whales are expected to leave the Bay.
What are the identities of these right whales? How
long do they reside in the Bay? Which portions of the Bay do they
use? Where are they going, and where have they been? These are questions
that state and federal regulators need to have answered to protect
right whales. The research is being coordinated by right whale researcher
Dr. Moira Brown who has assembled a team of experienced right whale
scientists from CCS, the New England Aquarium, and the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution. From January through May, 38 chartered
aircraft flights and about 30 research vessel trips will document
whale locations, behavior, and individual whale identification (see
box). Eight DMF biologists will assist CCS during aerial surveys
of Cape Cod Bay and adjacent waters.
Unlike the more common fish-eating humpback whales,
right whales feed on zooplankton (copepods). The program provides
for Dr. Charles (Stormy) Mayo of CCS to continue his multi-year
studies of plankton and oceanographic conditions for development
of predictions of where and when right whales will forage. Dr. Mayo
was awarded an additional grant by the Mass. Environmental Trust
for related habitat work: a study of satellite sea surface images
to identify locations of Gulf of Maine thermal fronts where copepods
are concentrated - prime right whale feeding areas. This research
will dovetail nicely with the surveillance work and plankton sampling.
There are about 300 - 350 right whales remaining
in the North Atlantic. Whaling from the 1600's through the 1800's
decimated most nearshore populations. Despite international protection
since 1935, this whale species has not shown much recovery, and
scientists have identified ship strikes and fishing gear entanglement
as two man-induced sources of mortality.
This research addresses both concerns. All whale
sightings are quickly reported to the National Marine Fisheries
Service Right Whale Early Warning System to warn shippers and other
maritime users about whale aggregations. Ships entering the Bay
at the east end of the Cape Cod Canal pose a risk to whales when
aggregated on the western side of the Bay in the path of ship traffic.
As for fishing gear entanglements, if any whales
are seen entangled with nets or lines, the CCS Disentanglement Team
will immediately respond. Fortunately (for whales and fishermen)
right whales typically reside in Cape Cod Bay during the months
with the least amount of fishing. However, because whales are capable
of carrying gear for months or even years before succumbing to a
serious injury, whales that are entangled elsewhere and swim into
Cape Cod Bay can be disentangled by the CCS Team. During January
flights, as many as 19 whales were seen in one day, and little or
no fixed gear was observed in areas with whales. When whales leave
the Bay in spring, fishermen will be notified, and if the departure
is early (last year they left in March), fishermen might be allowed
to re-set certain gear types in the area. Fixed gear restrictions
are effective through May 15.
This research program fulfills parts of the Division's
Conservation Plan for Northern Right Whales submitted to federal
court on December 16, 1996. The Court ordered the Commonwealth to
"engage in substantive discussions...regarding modifications of
fixed fishing gear and other measures to minimize actual harm to
Northern Right Whales." Also, the judge ordered a plan to "restrict
modify or eliminate the use of fixed gear fishing in coastal waters
of Massachusetts known as critical habitat for northern right whales."
.See Rules Update for details.
Because of the importance of this embayment for
right whales, in 1994 Cape Cod Bay was federally designated as one
of three "critical habitats" for right whales. Over the past decade
about two-thirds of the known population has been photographed by
CCS scientists and others in the Bay. Whales have been observed
feeding, socializing, and nursing their young; these whales typically
reside in the Bay during winter and early spring months and depart
for other known - and possibly unknown - feeding areas.
Dr. Moira Brown, analyzing the identities of whales,
showed Cape Cod Bay to be a favorite haunt of female right whales
and mother-calf pairs that migrate from the birthing grounds off
Florida and Georgia (another Critical Habitat) to New England waters.
Right whales aggregate seasonally in at least three other habitats
including the Great South Channel that lies between Nantucket Island
and Georges Bank (spring months) and two Canadian areas (lower Bay
of Fundy, between Nova Scotia and Maine and Browns-Baccaro Bank
south of Nova Scotia) where they summer.
Dr. Brown's ongoing DNA sampling will be continued
as well. This research is yielding important genetic information
about the population and about individual whales. CCS scientists
aboard research vessels will extract minute skin samples from certain
individual whales - if and when these previously unsampled whales
DMF also will contract CCS services on a contingency
basis to investigate whale sightings "out of season." If right whales
migrate into nearshore waters during peak fishing and boating seasons,
there might be an increased risk from vessel collisions or fixed
gear. Though whales typically depart from Cape Cod Bay by spring,
individual whales or mother/calf pairs have been known to unpredictably
migrate through state waters during the summer or fall. Furthermore,
there have been anomalous years, last seen in 1986, when right whales
were found in Cape Cod Bay and Mass. Bay throughout the summer feeding
on unusually dense copepod concentrations. That year was notable
for a lack of humpback whales on Stellwagen Bank as well as sand
lance, their favorite prey. Sand lance also feed on copepods and
their absence may have contributed to the copepod abundance that
right whales and sei whales (another copepod feeder) enjoyed that
If right whales migrate unexpectedly into state
waters during summer/fall, DMF's biologists, who will have gained
experience during the winter surveillance program, will be ready
to assist CCS and NMFS identify the whales, document their movements,
and take appropriate action. This might entail simple warnings to
mariners and fishermen, or in extreme cases, could include restrictions
on certain gear types, if feasible.
This program, in addition to other right whale programs
funded by the Mass. Environmental Trust (known for license plate
depicting a right whale), will provide a comprehensive look at right
whales in Cape Cod Bay and adjacent waters. Our real-time knowledge
of whale distribution and movement will help direct many of the
other right whale researchers in the field this season. These field
Other grants awarded by the Trust include:
- Study of right whale habitat through sea surface
satellite imagery by Dr. Stormy Mayo of CCS.
- Cooperative tagging program by David Wiley of
the International Wildlife Coalition and Dr. Peter Tyack. David
and Peter will be testing and deploying state-of-the-art technologies
to attach tags to right whales that will reveal dive depths, swim
speeds, and short term movements. They hope to collect physiological
measurements such as heart rate, swim stroke, and vocalizations.
- Right Whale Health Assessment by Dr. Michael
Moore of Woods Hole Oceanographic. Blubber thickness will be measured
and analyzed relative to reproductive and sighting histories of
- Feasibility study by Dr. Clifford Goudey of MIT
to use "passive detection techniques a means of identifying and
localizing right whales"
- "Assessing the role of inbreeding in the lack
of recovery of northern right whales:" Howard Rosenbaum and Dr.
Rob DeSalle of the American Museum of Natural History will extract
DNA from museum specimens of baleen and bone from whales killed
between the 16th and 20th centuries. This study will reveal the
genetic variability over the centuries and assess the current
level of "inbreeding."
- "Analysis of photographs collected in Massachusetts
during 1998, digitization of the Right Whale Catalog, and updating
the published identification catalog" by Philip Hamilton of the
New England Aquarium.
From the air, right whales are unmistakable.
Measuring 40-55 feet as adults, their broad black backs and lack
of a dorsal fin clearly distinguishes them from other large whales
commonly seen in Cape Cod Bay, notably fin whales and humpbacks.
But the pattern of callous-like skin, known as "callosities," on
their head and jaws, is most distinctive and unique to each individual
like a fingerprint. Scientists have positively identified individual
whales over time and in different habitats. This has contributed
to our knowledge of seasonal migrations, as well as estimates of
reproductive and mortality rates. The Cape Cod Bay surveillance
program will add hundreds of photographs to the New England Aquarium's
catalog that totals over 150,000 photographs and is growing. About
2,000 sightings are processed annually. Photographs are archived
for all the known members of the population.
These photographs allow scientists to track whales
that might have been injured or entangled with gear. For example,
last June fishermen spotted an 8 year-old male (known as catalog
#1971) swimming near Chatham inlet. This whale was entangled in
gear that officials now believe was picked up over 100 miles offshore.
Disentanglement was successful. Most of the gear was removed, except
for one line fragment that remained in the whale's mouth. The whale
was photo-identified again during July and August in the Bay of
Fundy free of any line. The surveillance teams working in Cape Cod
Bay hope to re-sight four whales last seen entangled in various
gears last summer in the Bay of Fundy, Canada.
by Dan McKiernan
Return to Table of Contents
The Secretary of Commerce is seeking nominations
for two Council at-large seats. One seat is currently held by William
Amaru who is completing a first term. The other seat is held by James
O'Malley (Rhode Island) who also is completing his first term. Governor
Cellucci has been asked to nominate a slate of six candidates for
these two seats. Candidates "by reason of their occupation or othr
experience, scientific expertise, or training must be knowledgeable
and experienced in ways related to fishery resources of New England."
Anyone interested in being nominated should contact
DMF for further information. Time is short, however. The Governor
must submit his nominations by March 13. Background checks and paperwork
make it necessary for anyone who is interested to contact DMF's
Jeanne Shaw at our Boston office by February 23 (617-727-3193, ext.
Return to Table of Contents
DMF has scheduled a public hearing (6:30 P.M.
to 9:00 P.M.) on Thursday, March 5 in Fairhaven at the Seaport
Inn to receive public comment on its proposal to restrict certain
fishing in the Acushnet River estuary. The Department of Public Health
(DPH) regulation "Prohibition against certain fishing in New Bedford
Harbor" (105 CMR 260) was implemented on September 25, 1979. Its purpose
was to protect seafood consumers from PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl)-contaminated
fish and shellfish in three areas of the Acushnet River estuary. The
taking and sale of lobsters, shellfish, and bottom-feeding finfish
was prohibited in some or all of these three areas.
Enforcement of the closure continues to be difficult.
DPH does not have the resources to enforce its closure especially
for the taking of lobster, the fishery of greatest concern to DPH.
Because the Division of Law Enforcement (DLE), DMF's sister agency
in the Department of Fisheries Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement,
does not have the authority to enforce public health closures, up
until now, DMF has requested DLE to obtain permit numbers of pots
being fished in the DPH-closed areas. DMF has sent letters to lobstermen
warning them to remove their pots or face a DMF adjudicatory hearing
that could result in suspension or loss of their lobster permit.
DMF proposes to improve enforcement of Area 1-3
restrictions by enacting similar closures under its authority provided
in M.G.L. Chapter 130. Once implemented, DLE will enforce these
DMF closures supporting DPH's efforts to protect the public from
exposure to seafood with PCB levels exceeding the Food and Drug
Administration's (FDA) PCB 2 parts per million (ppm) tolerance level
Of note, DPH's Area 3 prohibition pertains only
to the taking of lobster. DMF proposes to prohibit the taking of
lobster in Area 3 ("Upper Buzzards Bay") to mirror this longstanding
DPH prohibition. However, DMF's decision to close this fishery under
its authority will depend on tests of PCB levels in Area 3 lobster
for the last few years and subsequent DPH agreement that our test
results are applicable in determining whether Area 3 can be opened.
DMF's tests reveal that PCB concentrations in Area 3 lobster total
edible portions including the tomalley (green liver) from 1992-1995
have been below the FDA tolerance. We remind the public that DPH
has a 10-year old health advisory: "All persons should eliminate
consumption of tomalley from lobsters from any source due to the
finding of abnormally high chemical contaminant levels in tomalley
from lobsters from a number of different geographic locations."
DMF also proposes to prohibit conch harvest in Areas
1 and 2. Conch prohibitions are necessary for effective enforcement
of the closures. Conch are caught with pots buoyed at the surface,
and there is no way to know if a pot is being fished for lobster
or conch unless each pot is pulled and examined by Law Enforcement.
At this time, DPH does not prohibit conch fishing in Area 2. A DMF
conch prohibition is not being proposed for Area 3 because the emphasis
of enforcement is to be on Areas 1 and 2. Furthermore, fish pots
are fished for such species as scup and black sea bass in Area 3
so prohibiting conch pots to promote more effective enforcement
would serve no purpose.
by David Pierce
Return to Table of Contents
PCBs are man-made, very stable chemicals composed
of carbon, hydrogen, and varying amounts of chlorine (1-10 atoms).
There are 209 different kinds of PCBs (called congeners) determined
by the number and location of chlorine atoms on the PCB "backbone"
diagrammed as two joined, hexagon-shaped "rings."
PCBs are nonflammable and are ideal as liquid
coolants in electrical transformers and capacitors, as flame retardants,
lubricants, machine tool cutting oils, and hydraulic fluids. PCBs
are now illegal to manufacture, process, or distribute. When PCBs
were legal to sell, they were sold under the trade name of Aroclor
followed by a four-digit number such as 1254 or 1260 with the last
two numbers indicating the weight (as percent) of chlorine content.
PCBs are persistent and widespread in the environment.
They degrade slowly, and because they are soluble in body fats,
they accumulate and may magnify in some food chains. While most
of the 209 congeners are not toxic, some appear to be associated
with numerous biological and toxicological effects, perhaps even
in humans, if study results from laboratory animals (such as rats
and mice) given very high doses of PCBs daily for about two years
can be applied to humans exposed to very low amounts over a lifetime.
This is a controversial assumption.
Concern about PCBs in lobster, and other seafood,
is characterized in terms of cancer risk with a PCB tolerance level
of 2 parts per million (ppm).
The tolerance was derived in the late 1970's
by FDA from a study of large, accidental consumption of PCB-contaminated
rice oil by Japanese in 1968. By 1971, 1,057 cases of rice-oil disease
("Yusho" disease) had been reported. The average amount of PCBs
causing an obvious effect was 2,000 milligrams eaten over 53 days
(38 milligrams per day). An aspirin is about 325 milligrams. Effects
believed to be due to PCBs in the rice oil included fatigue, weight
loss, gastroenteritis, eye discharge, and skin disorders such as
The 2 ppm tolerance resulted from a simple calculation
of dividing an assumed safe consumption level of 46 micrograms (46
millionths of a gram) of PCBs per day by 19 grams of seafood per
day (daily per capita seafood consumption) and rounding the result.
FDA applied large safety factors (three orders of magnitude) to
the Japanese accidental PCB exposure to estimate the 46 micrograms
per day safe exposure.
The 2 ppm tolerance is our guidepost. The seafood
industry uses the tolerance for the commercial harvest and sale
of seafood involved in interstate commerce. The tolerance is the
best available means to judge the safety of lobster and other seafood
in the marketplace regarding PCBs.
by David Pierce
Return to Table of Contents
DMF's Power Plant Investigations' Project has
a multi-year, western Cape Cod Bay winter flounder tagging study funded
by Boston Edison Company.
We ask all fishermen to be on the lookout for tagged
winter flounder. This year we're offering more prize money for returned
tags. Anyone returning tag recapture data will be eligible for our
annual drawing for $1,000, $500, $250, and ten $100 prizes.
An individual's name will go into our drawing each time he/she reports
a tagged fish.
This January, we picked the winner of our 1997 winter
flounder tag return contest. We had 253 entries. Our lucky winner
DMF biologists continue to tag flounder with a Petersen
disc tag (round in shape) attached close behind the head. Since
1994, we have tagged about 14,700 flounder in western Cape Cod Bay
and part of Massachusetts Bay. We plan on marking an additional
7,500 flounder in 1998. Tag return information, including date and
location, continues to come into our office.
To date, we have had 479 tag returns. The majority
of these have come from our tagging area off of Plymouth. However,
we have had returns from such places as Boston Harbor, Stellwagen
Bank, and Buzzards Bay. Recently, a fish was recaptured off Long
Island, New York. Thanks to everyone who provided us with invaluable
Using this tagging information, we intend to map
seasonal movements, define the geographical distribution of the
local population, and estimate population size. Our objective is
to determine the significance of power plant impact - namely the
entrainment of winter flounder larvae in Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station's
cooling water. Waters adjacent to the power plant, including the
Plymouth, Kingston, Duxbury Bay estuary, are important spawning
areas for winter flounder.
If you catch one of our tagged flounder, please
record the tag number and color, location of capture, date, and
length of the fish (fish under the 12" size limit should be released
with the tag in place). Please call or send the information to Bob
Lawton at DMF, 50A Portside Dr., Pocasset, MA 02559; Tel.#(508)
By Robert Lawton, Power Plant Investigations
Return to Table of Contents
Two Newsletters ago, we reported on the essentials
of the draft lobster plan that was taken to public hearings in late
August 1997. As of a vote on November 29, the full Atlantic States
Marine Fisheries Commission voted to implement Amendment 3 as recommended
by the Lobster Management Board. At the request of National Marine
Fisheries Service Regional Administrator, Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, the
Commission also voted to request that the Management Board immediately
address overfishing through the plan. The National Marine Fisheries
Service has been consistent in their criticism that the ASMFC plan
does not adequately address overfishing and meet the objectives of
Equally consistent, ASMFC has asserted that the
critical issue is getting all the conservation partners on the same
page through the approval of a plan and then using the tools available
under adaptive management to address overfishing and the achievement
of the plan's goals. A brief summary of the major plan components
The plan features the continuation of area based
management that was developed under now defunct federal Lobster
Plan amendment 5. The plan now contains 7 management areas generally
similar to the management areas developed under Amendment 5. Massachusetts
not only borders the confluence of two great ecosystems, but also
borders three lobster management areas as well as receives landings
from a fourth, the so called offshore area #3. The three areas the
Commonwealth borders are the Gulf of Maine which we share with Maine
and New Hampshire; the Outer Cape Lobster Management Area stretching
from Provincetown to Monomoy and Southern New England from Nantucket
to New York (so called area 2).(See chart of Mass lobster management
areas) These areas were developed originally to encompass what were
viewed as fisheries of generally similar nature.
Under the previous federal plan, Effort Management
Teams (EMTs) consisting of lobster fishermen and biologists worked
together to craft area specific management measures specific to
their areas. The ASMFC plan continues the areas and the concept
of co-management by establishing Lobster Conservation Management
Teams (LCMTs) manned by lobster harvesters and scientists.
Of course, the plan continues the all encompassing
management measures such as the 3 1/4" minimum carapace size, the
prohibition on v notching and the prohibition on egg bearing female
lobsters. There are also area specific measures, most notable of
which in area 1 is the maximum carapace size of 5". All fishermen
harvesting lobsters from Area 1 must abide by this measure.
The controversial issue of the appropriate allocation
of lobster to the non trap sector was addressed by the Commission
by adopting a 100/day 500/trip allowance. This limit is coincidently
the same as the current Massachusetts statute and the default that
was inserted into the Magnuson Stevens Conservation and Management
Act for implementation by NMFS in March,1998 should ASMFC fail to
approve a measure in Amendment 3. Although this limit was opposed
by some non trap interests, it is a level of lobster harvest that
is not exceeded by the vast majority of mobile gear and other non
trap lobster harvesters.
Another point of contention in the ASMFC plan is
the implementation of V notch protection throughout the entire range
of the American lobster resource. As noted earlier, a harvesting
and possession prohibition of V notched female lobsters was a provision
of the federal lobster plan but a statutory exception was created
in Massachusetts so that state waters only fishermen were exempted.
Since the v-notch possession prohibition is now part of the ASMFC
plan, exemptions are presently not allowed which means all fishermen
must abide by this regulation. Fishermen from the Outer Cape Lobster
Association are no longer exempt. Recent sea sampling of Outer Cape
lobstermen catches revealed the incidence of v-notched lobsters
to be well below the levels observed previously so this regulation
should not impact this group any more than other groups.
As previously noted, with regard to reaching the
plan rebuilding objectives, the deep differences between NMFS and
ASMFC as to how to achieve these objectives resulted in NMFS announcing
that they were going to go forward with possible rulemaking to amend
the federal plan to achieve rebuilding in the federal waters portion
of the plan. NMFS is proposing to use significant trap limit reductions
to reduce effort and fishing mortality. While the Commonwealth presently
has an 800 trap limit within state waters, the feds were calling
for plan out year limits far lower than 800.
Fortunately, at a recent meeting of ASMFC Commissioners
representing lobster management Area 1 and NMFS regional officials
hosted by Dr. Rosenberg, a political confrontation was averted when
tentative agreement was reached regarding how to achieve an acceptable
trap reduction that would meet everyone's needs. NMFS backed off
a little on their schedule and ASMFC agreed, subject to rulemaking
or statutory changes, to adopt a trap reduction schedule that would
be implemented with defaults after initial reduction goals were
by Philip Coates
Return to Table of Contents
Massachusetts Environmental Police patrol vessel
"Jessie" was re-christened at the Charlestown Navy Yard on November
25, 1997 after being substantially renovated and improved. The "Jessie"
is one of two large state patrol boats operated by the Environmental
Police that enforce state and federal fishing laws and conduct search
and rescue efforts.
Secretary of Environmental Affairs Trudy Coxe had
the honor of officially christening the vessel. She said, "The improvements
to the "Jessie" are essential for the effective enforcement of our
marine fishing laws. This enforcement is absolutely critical for
the restoration of marine fish stocks and the long-term health of
Massachusetts' billion dollar commercial fishing industry."
The $140,000 of renovations and improvements included
a new electrical system, improved Captain's station, a new global
positioning system (GPS) radar, and improved exterior lighting for
search and rescue. The contractor also added an external video camera
to record boarding of vessels for inspection of equipment or catches,
state-of-the-art night vision equipment, and improved sleeping,
bathroom, and kitchen areas. The "Jessie" gained three knots per
hour due to the elimination of older, heavier equipment.
"Enforcement of the complex state and federal
marine fisheries statutes is the most important job of the Environmental
Police in coastal waters," said Department of Fisheries, Wildlife
& Environmental Law Enforcement Commissioner John Phillips. "I would
like to thank the Legislature, Secretary Coxe, and Governor Cellucci
for supporting this crucial project."
"This project greatly enhances the Commonwealth's
ability to enforce the regulations that will improve fisheries and
the fishing industry in the future," said Representative Douglas
Petersen (D-Marblehead), the House Chairperson of the Natural Resources
and Agriculture Committee.
The "Jessie" and "Evelyn" are the two major patrol
vessels responsible for enforcing all the boating and fishing regulations
in Massachusetts coastal waters. The vessels patrol Massachusetts
waters 365 days a year around the clock with a crew of two or three
officers. Both patrol vessels work closely with the state Division
of Marine Fisheries, the Coast Guard and the National Marine Fisheries
Service, patrolling federal waters when necessary.
The 26 year-old "Jessie" was renovated because its
hull and other systems are still in very good shape. Purchase of
a new comparable vessel would have cost between $500,000 and $600,000.
by Robert Greco, Dept Information Officer
Return to Table of Contents
DMF's Conservation Engineering Program and the
New England Aquarium (NEA) were awarded $163,244 from the Saltonstall-Kennedy
grant program to jointly study demersal longline fisheries. The purpose
of the work is to increase selectivity of longline gear by reducing
catch of undersized cod and haddock and to increase survival of those
fish that are released back to the water. This is the second grant
awarded to DMF and NEA pertaining to the New England demersal longline
The first study, conducted in 1995 and 1996 acquired
data on hook selectivity and bycatch survival. Survival of discarded
cod, the target species, was previously unknown.
Discarded juvenile cod, caught on the longline,
were held for three days in cages on the bottom where they were
caught. (Three days holding has been deemed sufficient by previous
studies to determine short term mortality.) During the initial fish
capture process, fish were examined for injury and stress. The latter
was accomplished through blood serum analysis. At the end of three
days, the fish were removed from the cages and were again examined
for survival, injury, and stress. Survival of juvenile cod was lower
To increase survival, changes in hook design and
fishermen's unhooking techniques show promise. Researchers now must
test this combination with commercial longline captains to evaluate
the best and most practical means to implement improvements. The
Cape Cod Hook Fishermen's Association has been an asset in all of
the longline research by providing ideas and cooperative crew and
Only six proposals were funded out of 90 submitted.
So, competition was extreme. This joint research team had previously
looked at the survival and stress of groundfish caught by trawl
gear. This is the fifth Saltonstall-Kennedy grant awarded to this
by Arnold Carr, Conservation Engineering
Return to Table of Contents
EDITORS: Dan McKiernan & David Pierce
GRAPHICS: David Gabriel
DMF receives state and federal funds to conduct
research, management and development of the Commonwealth's marine
fishery resources. Information in this publication in alternative
formats is available.
Philip G. Coates, Director, DMF
John C. Phillips, Comm'nr DFWELE
Trudy Coxe, Secretary, EOEA
Argeo Paul Cellucci, Governor
Comments and suggestions for the newsletter are
welcome. Please contact the Editors at (617) 727-3193, or write
to DMF, 100 Cambridge St., Boston, MA 02202.
Publication #17020-12-8500 02/98-$2469
Division of Marine Fisheries
100 Cambridge Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02202
Public Hearings / Regulations / Legislation
Volume 8 Number 1
Table of Contents
for Rules Update....
- Notices of Public Hearings
- Regulatory Update
- Changes to Mass. Conservation
Plan for Northern Right Whales:
Scheduled for February 23 and 24, 1998
Under the provisions of G.L. C. 30A and pursuant
to the authority found in G.L. c 130 ss. 17A, 80, 100A, and 104,
the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and the Marine Fisheries
Commission (MFC) have scheduled hearings on the following proposals.
Contact the Division of Marine Fisheries for specific proposals
The following items are proposed regulation changes
for the upcoming fishing seasons and are presented for public comment.
After public hearings, the Commission and DMF will consider all
oral and written comments, and votes on these proposals will be
taken either at the March 9 or April 2 business meetings of the
Commission. If no changes are approved, 1997 regulations will remain
(1) The Marine Fisheries Commission seeks public
comment on possible changes to striped bass management.
(a) Recreational fishery: Increase
the recreational possession limit per angler from one to two fish.
(The minimum size limit of 28" would remain in effect.)
(2) DMF proposal to delay the start of the
commercial summer/fall summer flounder season. Current rules allow
landing/possession limits of 100 lbs. from April 23 through June 16.
The limit increases to 300 lbs. on June 17 through the end of the
season until the state's annual quota is reached. This proposal would
extend the 100 lbs. limit until July 15. On July 16 the limit would
increase to 300 lbs. An alternative would be to set a 0 lbs. possession
limit from June 16 through July 15 to prevent targeting on fluke and
(b) Commercial fishery: Establish a minimum commercial size
limit of 28" and adopt a possession limit per commercial angler
ranging from 10 fish to 20 fish. (The overall commercial quota of
750,000 lbs. and the schedule of open/closed fishing periods would
remain similar to that seen in 1997. )
(3) DMF proposal to amend black sea bass
(a) Monitoring commercial black
sea bass landings. DMF proposes requiring dealers purchasing
black sea bass to report their purchases to DMF’s Statistics Program,
as is currently done for certain species, e.g. striped bass, bluefish,
summer flounder, and scup.
(4) DMF proposals to enact or amend recreational
fishery restrictions for summer flounder (fluke), black sea bass,
and scup consistent with federal management plans.
(b) Black sea bass commercial fishery possession limits consistent
with the Mid-Atlantic Council and ASMFC Plan. The Council/ASMFC
Plan calls for the following limits for all Mid-Atlantic and New
England states: April through June, 7,000 lbs.; July through September,
3,000 lbs.; and October through December, 4,000 lbs. DMF proposes
to enact these limits or to adopt a uniform 2,000 lbs. possession
(a) Summer flounder. Increase
minimum size from 14 1/2" to 15" and decrease the possession limit
from 10 to 8 fish.
(5) Scup commercial fishery restrictions:
Enact a commercial fishery possession limit of between 100 - 500 lbs.
per vessel during May through October.
(b) Black sea bass. Enact a 20-fish possession limit.
(c ) Scup. Enact a recreational possession limit in the range
of 25 to 50 fish.
(6) Trap tag program. Details of a
trap tag program for lobster and fish/conch pot fisheries will be
discussed. These specific details will be based in part on a January
31 DMF/MFC meeting in Hyannis.
Two hearings have been scheduled:
Monday February 23, at 7:00 p.m. at the Fuller School Auditorium
in Gloucester ; and
Tuesday February 24 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mass. Maritime Academy Auditorium,
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During the period of November - January
1998, the following changes were made by DMF and the Massachusetts
Marine Fisheries Commission: Commercial limits on cod from
Gulf of Maine enacted: This regulation complements the 1,000
lbs. cod trip limit in the EEZ. This limit affects holders of DMF
commercial fishermen permits who do not have a federal permit for
the taking of "regulated species" (i.e., cod, haddock, flounders...).
Gulf of Maine cod is nearing a "collapse;" therefore, a complementary
DMF regulation is necessary for conservation and rebuilding of the
Gulf of Maine cod stock.
"It is unlawful for vessels, without federal
permits allowing the landing or possession of cod, to land or possess
at any time more than 1,000 lbs. of cod caught in waters under the
jurisdiction of the Commonwealth north of 42° 00' N. latitude including
all waters of Cape Cod Bay."
Commercial summer flounder limits:
DMF decided to increase the limit for summer flounder to 1,000
pounds for the 2-week period February 16 through March 1. Since
January 1, the limit has been 500 pounds. DMF, supported by the
Marine Fisheries Commission, recently decided to increase the limit
if January landings remained low and similar to January 1997 when
very little summer flounder was landed (less than 5,000 pounds).
The limit will drop back to 500 pounds on March 2.
When 50% of the 217,637 lbs. winter/spring quota
is reported caught, the limit will drop to 100 lbs. However,
regardless of the percent caught, the limit will drop to 100
lbs. on April 23 - the beginning of our inshore squid season.
Sea Herring restrictions: consistent
with recent Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission initiatives,
the MFC approved a prohibition on the landing and processing
(at-sea) of sea herring by vessels greater than 165' overall
length and 3,000 horsepower, Also the "direct mealing" of sea herring
Seasonal possession limits were enacted
for scup and black sea bass consistent with federal regulations:
For scup the limit is 20,000 lbs. during January - April, and for
black sea bass, the limit is 11,000 lbs. During January - March.
These “restrictions” are expected to have no impact on Massachusetts-based
fishermen since landings of these species have been negligible during
the winter when these species are found well offshore. However,
the ASMFC required Massachusetts to enact regulations that complimented
those of other harvesting states and the federal government for
the winter months.
DMF seeks volunteers to serve on a "Working
Group" to advise DMF on the drafting of regulations regarding processing
of shell-on frozen lobster tails by wholesale dealers. Last
November Governor Cellucci signed S. 1013 that allowed DMF to promulgate
regulations permitting possession and on-shore processing of shell-on
frozen lobster tails by wholesale dealers. The law requires DMF
to draft a regulation by June, 1998. The Marine Fisheries Commission
has asked DMF to convene a group of interested parties to assist
DMF in the drafting of proposed rules that would be presented formally
at May 1998 public hearings. For more information contact Assistant
Director Jim Fair at 617 727-3193.
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A few minor changes to the state's Right Whale
Conservation regulations (322 CMR 12.00) were approved.
These regulations were originally adopted in January
1997 in response to a federal court order to "modify, restrict or
eliminate fixed gear in Cape Cod Bay Critical Habitat" to minimize
risk of entanglements. These regulations apply to recreational and
commercial fishermen. The four changes include: (1) breakaway buoy
line specifications; (2) allowance of two-pot strings; (3) new gear
marking scheme to designate modified gear; and (4) plan to suspend
the rules if whales depart early.
(1) Break-away features must be used in
all buoy lines deployed on lobster gear in Cape Cod Bay Critical
Habitat within state waters during January 1 - May 15. Buoy lines
must be fitted with at least one of the following configurations:
(a) The top end of the buoy line
looped through the end of the buoy stick and then attached to itself
with not more than 5 steel hog rings or another device designed
to part at breaking strengths less than 500 lbs.
(b) Top end of the buoy line is a short section,
2 fathom (12 feet) or more, of non-floating line with a manufacturer's
determined breaking strength not to exceed 1500 lbs. (Example:
1/4" diameter nylon blend) This short section shall be attached
to the main section of the buoy line with either a device designed
to part at breaking strengths less than 500 lbs. or tied with
one of the following knots to reduce the breaking strength of
the line by approximately 50%: sheet bend or weaver's knot, double
carrick bend, square knot, or overhand knot. This section is expected
to part when pulled by a large whale swimming at the surface.
(Some fishermen already use this design in areas of high vessel
(2) Amendment of the 4-pot trawl minimum
to allow the use of "doubles". Last year's requirement that
fishermen set pots in trawls (4-pot minimum) to minimize the number
of vertical lines in the waters was amended. However, the spirit
of this requirement is maintained where fishermen will be allowed
to set two-pot strings with one vertical buoy line. Sinking groundline
is still required between pots.
(3) A new gear marking scheme was established
to designate "modified" lobster gear in Critical Habitat. This
proposal would allow the surveillance teams or law enforcement officers
to identify the abandoned and/or un-modified gear for removal.
(a) Two-pot trawls or "doubles" shall
be marked with a single buoy, three-foot stick and twin orange markers
visibly attached to the top of the buoy stick.
(b) All buoys marking either end of a trawl shall
have twin orange markers visibly attached to the buoy stick in
addition to the existing marking requirements already in effect.
Twin orange markers means "a pair of identical orange flag-like
strips of material that are clearly visible and attached to the
buoy stick or high flyer." We are not specifying the material
type at this time because we anticipate fishermen will be using
and testing a variety of materials that should withstand the winter
conditions and be inexpensive, yet be sufficiently visible to
accomplish the program goals. These twin orange markers must be
removed from all buoy sticks after May 15 and before June 1 and
fishermen may not re-attach them until after November 30 of each
year. Any gear found in Critical Habitat that is unmodified or
that is not properly marked with visible twin orange markers will
be considered unlawful and may be confiscated or the owner held
liable for its removal.
(4) A "trigger" mechanism was established
whereby the Director could suspend the fixed gear rules if whales
depart the Bay early. "If at least three full surveys of
Cape Cod Bay are successfully completed after April 1 yielding no
right whale sightings, and if corroborating evidence support whales'
departure from the Critical Habitat, the Director may suspend the
fixed gear restrictions beginning on April 21 or thereafter."
In summary, here's a brief list of the
state's gear restrictions for 1998:
In Cape Cod Bay Critical Habitat from January 1
- May 15:
Lobster gear must be configured as follows:
Use of sinking line is required in groundlines (lines connecting
lobster traps in a trawl).
Buoy lines must be constructed of sinking line except for the lower
1/3 which may be floating line.
To reduce the number of vertical buoy lines, pots must be set in
multiple pot strings: either a 4-pot trawl minimum with a buoy line
on each end, or a two-pot string with just a single buoy line. Setting
of single traps, each connected to a buoy line, is prohibited.
Buoy sticks must be marked with the "twin orange flags".
For gillnets, the following rules apply:
Gillnets (sink gillnets or surface gillnets) prohibited in Critical
Habitat from January 1 through May 15.
New regulated fishery permit required for anyone deploying surface
gillnets anywhere in state waters, except inshore net areas (permit
cost: $30 for residents/ $60 for non-residents). These nets will
not be allowed in the Critical Habitat during periods of expected
whale occurrences (January 1 - May 15) and/or during other times
and areas with right whale aggregations are identified by surveillance.
Fishermen should be mindful of the concurrent
federal gear restrictions that apply beyond Critical Habitat and
year-round. NMFS published an "interim final rule" last July.
This rule prohibited floating line at the surface, requires all
gear be tended at least every 30 days, and a called for a buoy line
marking system to provide more information about entanglements.
Also restrictions on lobstering and gillnetting were enacted for
Great South Channel. Contact NMFS for specifics. Gear "menus" were
created where fishermen can choose features that would reduce the
risk to whales. This menu-approach respects time-honored fishing
practices that vary significantly among areas based on various physical
forces (e.g. strong tides) and other factors. Gear set in Critical
Habitat beyond May 15 or year-round in waters adjacent to Jeffreys
Ledge or Stellwagen Bank must be rigged with at least two of the
characteristics from the "list." Otherwise gear must be rigged with
at least one feature. This list may be changed when NMFS
publishes the final rule in early 1998. Contact NMFS for details,
especially regarding offshore fisheries.
Federal Lobster Technology List
Federal Gillnet Technology List
- All buoy lines are 7/16 inches in diameter or
- All buoy lines are attached to the buoy line with
a weak link having a maximum tensile strength of 1100 pounds (weak
links may include swivels, plastic weak links, rope of appropriate
diameter, hog rings, or rope stapled to a buoy stick);
- All buoys lines composed entirely of sinking line;
- All ground lines are made of sinking line;
- For gear set in offshore areas only, all buoys
are attached to the buoy line by a section of rope no more than
3/4 the diameter of the buoy line;
- For gear set in offshore areas only, all
buoys are attached to the buoy line with a breaking strength of
Fishermen are reminded of the state's Right
Whale Buffer Zone restrictions: Vessel operators must stay at
least 500 yards away from a right whale but can remain within the
zone after reporting an entangled whale. Vessel operators must notify
Coast Guard or the Division of Law Enforcement when they observe an
entangled whale, and then they can stay near the entangled whale until
told by enforcement officers or disentanglement teams that standing-by
is no longer necessary. Last summer's successful disentanglement off
Chatham demonstrated the critical role fishermen can play by reporting
the sighting, standing-by the whale, and assisting the Center for
Coastal Studies Disentanglement Team. Upon request, DMF can send you
a free water-proof disentanglement card that explains what to do -
and what not to do - if you observe an entangled whale.
- All buoy lines are 7/16 inches in diameter or
- All buoys lines composed entirely of sinking line;
- All buoys are attached to the buoy line with a
weak link having a maximum tensile strength of 1100 pounds;
- Gear is anchored with the holding power of a 22
pound danforth-style anchor at each end;
- Gear is anchored with a 50 pound dead weight at
- Nets are attached to a lead line weighing 100
pounds or more per 300 feet;
- Weak links with a maximum tensile breaking
strength of 1100 pounds between net panels along the float rope.
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UPDATE is published quarterly to
publicize regulatory matters affecting marine fisheries.
Director: Philip G. Coates, DMF
Commissioner: John C. Phillips, DFWELE
Secretary: Trudy Coxe, EOEA
Governor: Argeo Paul Cellucci
Editor: Daniel J. McKiernan, DMF / Art Dir.: David G. Gabriel, DFWELE