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
Volume 18 Second Quarter April - June 1998
Lawsuit: Federal Judge Rules in Favor of DMF
Whale Lawsuit Sent to Supreme Court
River Collaborative Efforts
Belding Award given to Bob Pond
Marine Fisheries Commission Welcomes Two New Members
Goes International with the Raised Footrope Trawl
Videos Reveal Fish and Net Behaviors
Releases 1998 Sportfish Guide
of Contents for Rules Update including Public
Hearings, Regulatory Updates, Legislative Updates, and Draft Regulations
on (1) trap tags and (2) lobster processing
April 27th, just days before the state's commercial fishery for scup
was to be shut down by the federal government, a federal judge blocked
the closure and took further action ordering the National Marine Fisheries
Service (NMFS) to re-draft the scup management plan in a way that
does not discriminate against Massachusetts fishermen. DMF, along
with the state Attorney General's Office, argued that the federally
managed quota given to Massachusetts was grossly inequitable and unfair
because the amount was based on inaccurate historical landings data,
and that data accounted for just a fraction of the state's actual
catch. If the case had been lost, Massachusetts could have faced a
This remedy "in the nick of time" was welcome news to the hundreds
of commercial fishermen and dealers who catch and sell scup during
spring, summer, and fall in Massachusetts. This lawsuit was supported
by Mass. fishermen and dealers whose testimony and records were
critical to the state's case.
Scup is a small, silver-colored fish that migrates seasonally each
spring to Massachusetts south coastal waters, the northern edge
of its range. Scup depart our waters during fall, and they over-winter
in deep waters along the edge of the continental shelf. While not
as important as the state's bread-and-butter species such as lobster,
groundfish, and sea scallops, scup supports a robust inshore fishery
by fishermen using weirs, fish pots, hook-and-line, and trawls.
Most catches come from Buzzards Bay, south of Cape Cod, and around
the islands. For recreational fishermen it is usually the most commonly
Massachusetts has led the way in scup conservation by unilaterally
regulating its inshore fisheries for years to prevent overfishing,
before federal or interstate plans were enacted. Commercial fishermen
have been constrained by a minimum size (9") for years. They have
been further restricted with limits on the fish-pot fishery, time/area
closure for trawlers, and a ban on night-trawling when scup are
most vulnerable to capture.
This case represents the first time DMF challenged a federal fisheries
management plan in court. Along the coast, Massachusetts has a well-earned
reputation as a progressive state willing to take strong conservation
measures working in partnership with other states and the federal
government. Why did the Commonwealth end up in court? There was
no other choice. To understand our reasons for having to turn to
the Court, it's necessary to know how scup is being managed by the
Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States
Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).
According to fisheries scientists, scup are considered overfished.
To rebuild the stocks, NMFS implemented a quota-based management
plan with direct controls on how much fish could be landed, based
on historical patterns of landings. The plan was amended in 1997
and divided the region-wide quota into three seasons: January-April
(45%), May-October (summer) (39%), and November-December (16%).
This controversial amendment allocated the summer quota to individual
states based on NMFS' records of May-October landings from each
state during 1983-1992. For the summer season, the Commonwealth
was allocated just 15.5% of the quota, while Rhode Island received
60.6%; New York got 17%, and the balance (7%) went to other states.
DMF strongly objected to the allocations arguing that inshore spring-fall
fisheries were poorly documented, so any allocation would be systematically
flawed. NMFS's data for Massachusetts were grossly inaccurate. The
federal "voluntary" data collection system completely overlooked
some New Bedford fish dealers who purchased the majority of scup
from inshore commercial fishermen. These buyers were never asked
by NMFS to provide purchase information for scup or any other species
for that matter. NMFS data collection system was focused on more
valuable species such as cod, haddock, flounder, and scallops caught
by boats landing and selling fish in large ports, e.g. Point Judith
(RI), New Bedford, Boston, and Gloucester.
NMFS data collection system simply was not designed to capture these
statistics. The system was designed to document large-scale operations
such as the winter offshore trawl fishery for scup by large trawlers
conducting multi-day trips. These landings are comparatively easy
to document in contrast to the inshore fishery that includes hundreds
of small-scale vessels fishing with fish-pots or rod and reel. These
fishermen often land their catch at town boat ramps or small piers,
and transport their catch to small remote fish-houses by truck,
out of sight of federal port agents. Massachusetts' scup fishery
is an inshore fishery, with well over 90% of scup landings in Massachusetts
being caught inshore from May through October.
April 27, 1998 Chief U.S. District Judge Tauro:
Standard 4 states: "Conservation and management measures shall
not discriminate between residents of different states. If it becomes
necessary to allocate or assign fishing privileges among various United
States fishermen, such allocation shall be: (a) fair and equitable
to all such fishermen; (b) reasonably calculated to promote conservation,
and (c) carried out in such manner that no particular individual,
corporation, or other entity acquires an excessive share of such privileges."
that portion of the 1997 regulatory amendment establishing a state-by-state
allocation of the summer commercial scup fishing quota;
enforcement of the voided portion of the regulatory amendment,
including the calculation and enforcement of "overages;" and
the Secretary of Commerce to promulgate, in due course, a regulation
which sets forth state-by-state quotas in compliance with National
Standard #4 of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.
The "small-scale" feature of our fisheries is no accident. While
Massachusetts has some weirs that are allowed to operate along the
Cape's south shore, state regulations have curtailed most large
netting operations. Night-time trawling closure and limits on vessel
size have precluded most inshore trawling for scup. But the one
rule most responsible for the proliferation of these "difficult-to-monitor"
fishing operations was the Buzzards Bay net ban enacted by the Mass.
Legislature in the late 1800s at the urging of President Grover
Cleveland and his fellow anglers concerned about overfishing. Throughout
Buzzards Bay, anglers (including commercial anglers) have enjoyed
nearly exclusive use of the area for over a century. In the past
two decades, we've seen some growth of the fish pot fishery in Buzzards
Bay as well as in Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds.
NMFS rationalized the overly restrictive quotas by claiming it used
the "best available data" (BAD). But DMF showed the court that NMFS
was systematically missing very large amounts of Massachusetts scup
landings. In 1997, despite a meager 362,000 lbs. federal quota,
we kept our scup fishery open to holders of state permits (until
October 13) to obtain the evidence. NMFS tallied Mass. landings
at just 671,422 lbs. but our Statistics Program uncovered much more:
1,432,000 lbs. Massachusetts 1996 landings were about 1.35 million
lbs. Minimum estimates for 1994 and 1995 were 1.78 and 1.72 million
While we agreed the stocks should be rebuilt and agreed with the
federal schedule for stock restoration, we opposed the unfair burden
placed on the Commonwealth. The plan calls for a reduction in landings
by about 72% by 2002. Considering Massachusetts landings totaled
at least 1.35 million lbs. in 1996 while our alloted federal summer
quota for 1997 was just 362,000 lbs., we argued to the court that
we were being required to achieve the year 2002 target in one year
- a consequence of incomplete, inaccurate federal records of Massachusetts
landings, and a violation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act National Standard
4. The intent of the Council and ASMFC was to minimize the short-term
economic burden placed on fishermen by implementing these reductions
over a seven-year period. But, for Massachusetts the reality was
much different. On the other hand, neighboring Rhode Island received
a 1997 summer quota of 1,415,425 lbs., an amount far greater than
landings of the previous summer. From May-October, 1996, R.I. landed
1,042,797 lbs. The summer quota for 1997 represented a 26% increase!
We had warned the Council at its meetings and NMFS during comment
periods on the Plan Amendment establishing the summer quotas that
Massachusetts landings would be slashed inordinately. In DMF's March
5, 1997 letter to NMFS Regional Administrator Dr. Andrew Rosenberg
we argued against the Amendment citing the unacceptably low starting
point (363,000 lbs.) combined with the 7-year scheduled reduction
in landings. Our historic multi-million pound fishery would have
been reduced to under 100,000 lbs. in just a few years.
DMF will work with NMFS and other states to devise a better, more
equitable management plan. DMF intends to argue for reduced offshore
by-catch and discards of juvenile scup in the southern New England/Mid-Atlantic
mixed species trawl fishery targeting squid, whiting, butterfish,
and scup. This is a major unresolved hurdle that will likely prevent
fishermen from ever realizing the benefits of their sacrifices inshore.
Dr. David E. Pierce and Daniel McKiernan
The Commonwealth's legal case was handled by Attorney General
Scott Harshbarger's office.
Contact Assistant Attorney General Daniel J. Hammond for more information
Return to Table of Contents?
The lawsuit, Strahan v. Coxe, Phillips & Coates
may be heading to the U.S. Supreme Court for its consideration. The
Attorney General's office has requested that the Supreme Court review
the September 1996 lower court preliminary injunction under the federal
Endangered Species Act (ESA). The order required the Commonwealth
to develop new measures to protect northern right whales. (See
DMF News 4th Quarter 1996.) The suit filed back in April 1995
in U.S. District Court by private citizen Richard "Max" Strahan attempted
to ban lobster trap fishing and gillnetting in Massachusetts waters,
as a means to protect large whales that occasionally became entangled.
The lower court ordered the state to apply to the National Marine
Fisheries Service (NMFS) for an Incidental Take Permit and to convene
meetings of court-appointed experts to deliver a conservation plan.
This mandate was imposed on the Commonwealth despite the fact that
the ongoing federal Large Whale Take Reduction Team was working
simultaneously and DMF was an active participant.
The court disregarded previous measures taken by Massachusetts which
included restrictions on the use of fixed gear in Cape Cod Bay and
the establishment of a 500 yard protective zone, ruling that they
were not enough. Furthermore, the lower court found it irrelevant
that NMFS, the federal agency charged to protect right whales, had
confirmed that the Commonwealth's existing measures, at that time,
were sufficient to protect right whales and that no additional measures
were necessary. Since October 1996, state attorneys and biologists
have been in and out of federal court updating the lower court judge
about the Commonwealth's activities.
The case may establish important legal precedents. At the heart
of the issue is the delicate balance between branches of the federal
government and the role of the states. In essence, the lower court
has ordered Massachusetts to administer a federal statute in a manner
in which the federal agency (NMFS) has specifically declined to
do. The Commonwealth's brief to the Supreme Court argues that Congress
never intended to force states to adopt regulatory measures that
the federal government had not adopted or to press states into service
of the federal government.
Additionally, the lower court's order requires Massachusetts to
ensure that commercial fishermen licensed by DMF do not violate
the ESA. So the Commonwealth is now being held liable for ESA violations
simply because it issues commercial fishing licenses. Analogies
to - and consequences for - other state licenses such as a drivers
license or a license to practice law or medicine, are obvious and
The case's central issue is whether Massachusetts' state licensing
of gillnet and lobster pot fishing in Massachusetts constitutes
a "taking" of endangered whales in violation of the Endangered Species
Act. Consequently, the Commonwealth has asked the Supreme Court
to address three key legal issues:
case has caught the attention of many other states. Seventeen states
and the government of Guam have requested the Supreme Court to hear
the case. They signed-on to an amicus curiae (friend of the court)
brief prepared by the state of California. A number of industry groups
have also asked the case be heard. The Supreme Court usually hears
just a fraction of the submitted cases each year, but this level of
interest raises its chances. An announcement is expected this summer.
state regulatory officials commit a "taking" under the federal
Endangered Species Act (ESA) by enacting and enforcing regulations
that protect endangered whales in some ways, but do not eliminate
all risk that private, state-licensed fishermen might violate
if construed to make state regulators liable, the ESA violates
the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and constitutional
principles of federalism most recently established by the Court;
in a case against state regulatory officials, the proximate cause
requirement of the ESA is met by showing that the state sells
licenses to private citizens who then on their own may proceed
to violate the ESA in contravention of both state and federal
Regardless of the outcome of the case, the Commonwealth is committed
to the recovery of the northern right whale and the protection of
all large whales. For example, DMF's research program, conducted
this past winter/spring with the Center for Coastal Studies and
New England Aquarium was a great success and a model for other agencies
and other right whale habitats. (See DMF News 1st Quarter 1998
) The combination aerial/vessel surveillance program with habitat
research gives us the most complete understanding of right whale
behavior and biology in Cape Cod Bay.
DMF is a committed partner with the National Marine Fisheries Service
to find ways to allow fishing and marine mammals to co-exist. DMF
has required fishermen to modify their gear to reduce entanglement
risk during the months that right whales are in Cape Cod Bay. Also,
DMF's gear experts are collaborating with their federal counterparts
and researchers to further reduce entanglement risk. Seasonal gear
restrictions in Cape Cod Bay were scheduled to be lifted on May
16. Right whales departed the Bay on schedule during late April,
presumably heading for their late spring/summer habitats: Great
South Channel (east of Nantucket), Bay of Fundy, and possibly other
habitats still unidentified.
Special Assistant Attorney General David Hoover and Daniel McKiernan
The Commonwealth's appeal is being handled by Attorney General Scott
Contact Assistant Attorneys General Douglas H. Wilkins and Salvatore
M. Giorlandino for more information details at (617)727-2200.
Return to Table of Contents?
We need better statistics. The scup lawsuit and verdict
clearly demonstrated the problem where inadequate accounting of catches
undermined the integrity of the plan, eroded the support of the participants
(us) and resulted in a management plan that the Court found discriminatory.
Just over the horizon (by the end of the year) the new Atlantic Coastal
Cooperative Statistics Program will begin. All of the 23 Atlantic
coastal state, regional and federal "partners" will be joining forces
to coordinate fishery statistics.
Fisheries management has suffered from too little data, data collection
methods that are inconsistent or incompatible, and data that aren't
readily accessible to those who want them. Collection methods will
be standardized so each state and the federal government will collect
data that are compatible and not redundant. Changes are planned
for improved commercial and recreational fishery statistics as well
as better biological sampling.
The most significant proposal for commercial fishermen is mandatory
reporting for each trip. Fishermen would be required to record the
results of every fishing trip prior to its completion. This program
would resemble that already in place for federal groundfish permit
holders, so most trawlermen, gillnetters and longliners will see
little change to their current record keeping. The most significant
changes will be felt by commercial lobstermen and small-scale fisheries
in state waters such as those fishermen using rod and reel, and
fish pots. These will change from the current end-of-the-year summary
listing catch and effort to a logbook listing daily trip results.
Seafood dealers purchasing fish from commercial fishermen will be
required to issue a "trip ticket" listing all species purchased.
Currently, federally licensed dealers are required to report all
species purchased while many smaller dealers who only hold state
permits report to DMF purchases of only certain quota-managed species:
e.g, bass, fluke, scup, bluefish.
On the recreational side the current recreational surveys will be
enhanced and improved, so anglers will be more apt to encounter
an interviewer at the pier, boat ramp, or party boat. All data will
be housed in a central facility and available to researchers, fishery
managers and members of the public. However all individual data
will be kept confidential as is currently done.
The data management task will be formidable. DMF estimates there
will be about 9,000 commercial fishermen reporting a total of about
175,000 trips - based on 1996 fishing activities. Half the trips
are expected to come from commercial lobstermen. This surely will
represent many tall stacks of paper but will be manageable given
the current computer technologies.
David McCarron at DMF's Statistics Program (617)727-3958 x105
for more details.
Access the ACCSP home page at www.safmc.gov/ACCSPHM/accsp.html
Return to Table of Contents?
During the early spring of 1997, several storms hit
the coast of Massachusetts. Strong winds and heavy snow toppled tree
trunks and large branches into the Jones River in Kingston. Some of
this debris created impasses to spawning anadromous fish species.
That April, DMF assisted the Kingston tree warden and the Jones River
Watershed Association with the removal of several obstructions from
the river. After a few days of work, migrating fish (rainbow smelt
and river herring) had a relatively unobstructed path to their spawning
grounds. One large snag remained; at the time it did not present a
problem to fish passage. We subsequently observed adult smelt and
their eggs along with the river herring well upstream of this blowdown.
In February 1998, DMF surveyed the Jones River for any possible
additional obstructions to spawning-run fish which may have developed
over the winter months of '98. We found that the remaining snag
from 1997 had now accumulated a good deal of brush. This blockage
would now make it difficult for spawning fish to move upstream.
There were also a few smaller limbs elsewhere that needed to be
removed from the river. We contacted the Jones River Watershed Association
to report the problem. Sara Altherr of the Watershed Association,
in turn, contacted Al Hardy at Silver Lake High School in Plymouth,
where he teaches an agriculture mechanics/conservation course. After
inspecting the Jones River, Mr. Hardy gladly volunteered his class
to cut and remove these tree obstacles. His class made a few trips
to the river, and the snags were cleared. The river appears to be
free of any natural impasses. Mr. Hardy and his students will continue
to monitor the Jones River and remove any obstructions as necessary.
Brian Kelly, a fisheries biologist at DMF, subsequently visited
the Silver Lake School to extend the thanks of DMF and the Jones
River Watershed Association to Mr. Hardy and his students. Brian
also presented a talk to the students about the natural history
of anadromous finfish species that use the Jones River on their
spawning runs. It was an enjoyable experience for all concerned.
DMF was especially pleased that three different groups came together
to work cooperatively to resolve the problem. It is encouraging
to see a high school class make a commitment to lend a helping hand
to a river system. DMF would like to take this opportunity to thank
Al Hardy, his students, and the Jones River Watershed Association
for their efforts in assisting the passage of anadromous fish in
the Jones River.
John Boardman, Power Plant Studies
Return to Table of Contents?
Bob Pond was selected to receive the 1997 Belding Award.
This annual award is given to recognize contributions towards conservation
and sustainable use of the state's marine resources. Nominees may
be sport or commercial fishermen, fisheries professionals, or environmentalists,
researchers or others. The Belding award is named after Dr. David
Belding, whose work in marine biology formed DMF's foundation. The
award is funded in perpetuity by his descendents to promote conservation
and sustainable use of Massachusetts marine resources, goals that
reflect DMF's own mission.
The Marine Fisheries Commission chose Bob for his tireless efforts
on behalf of the restoration of striped bass on the east coast.
Bob's past and present affiliations include: founder of Stripers
Unlimited, president of The Mass Alliance, secretary
of The Association of Surf Anglers, Director of The Mass.
Wildlife Federation, Inc. and chairman of The Organized Sportsmen
Bob has been and continues to be an advocate for the conservation
of striped bass. As Executive Director of Stripers Unlimited, Bob,
in promoting the cause of striped bass, is a familiar sight at every
sportmen's show and marine symposium, including hearings on striped
bass management. Bob will be presented with the Belding Award at
the June meeting of Mass Striped Bass at The Viking Club in Braintree.
1990 Elizabeth Stromeyer, long-time MFC member and chairman
1991 Lester Smith, Recreational Fishing Advocate, Founder
of Coalition to Cease Ocean Dumping
1992 Henry (Hal) Lyman, Publisher Emeritus - Saltwater Sportsman;
Recreational Fishing Advocate
1993 Frank Grice, Former DMF Director, NMFS Regional Director,
member Offshore Groundfish Task Force
1994 Frank Mirarchi, Commercial fishermen, former MFC Chairman
and NE Council member
1995 Jack Crowley, Marine Educator
1996 Henry Souza, Commercial draggerman who worked for by-catch
reduction in trawl fisheries
The Division of Marine Fisheries and the Marine Fisheries Commission
are seeking nominations for the 1998 Belding Award, and will accept
suggestions through September 1998. If there is a citizen of the
Commonwealth that you know of who meets the criteria set above,
please submit the following: NOMINEE'S NAME, ORGANIZATION, ADDRESS,
DAYTIME PHONE, and include the following signed statement, "I would
like to nominate the aforementioned for the 1998 Belding Award.
I have enclosed a separate sheet outlining the reasons for my selection.
My name is.....Address/City/State/Zip, and Phone."
to Table of Contents?
The Marine Fisheries Commission welcomed two new members
at its March business meeting. Longtime Commissioner Colin "Rip" Cunningham,
Jr. opted not to seek reappointment to the MFC after twelve years
of service, and Alan Slavin served one three-year term. Vito Calomo
of Gloucester and Charles "Chuck" Casella of Medford were appointed
to replace Rip and Alan.
Vito is the Executive Director of the Gloucester Fisheries Commission.
He is a member of the Massachusetts Fisheries Recovery Commission,
an advisor to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's
northern shrimp and sea herring sections, an advisor to the New
England Fishery Management Council on groundfish and whiting, and
Director of Salem State College's Aquaculture Program.
Chuck is a member of Mass Striped Bass, founder of the Sea Party
Coalition, on the Board of Directors of the Marblehead Surfcasters
as well as the legislative liaison for the Plum Island Surfcasters.
The Marine Fisheries Commission is a nine member board, representing
recreational and commercial fishing interests (including seafood
dealers), from various parts of the Massachusetts coast. The MFC
was established by the Legislature in 1961, and its members are
"qualified in the field of marine fisheries by training and experience."
Commissioners are appointed by the governor to three-year terms,
and attend monthly business meetings as well as quarterly public
hearings; the fact that these positions are unpaid illustrates the
level of committment made by the MFC. Regulatory changes and public
proposals are approved or disapproved by a majority vote at the
Commission's monthly business meetings.
In addition to its newest appointees, the MFC members are: Tony
Tolentino (Chairman), Mark Amorello (Vice-chair), Pat Frontierro
(Clerk), Bill Adler, Kemp Maples, Mark Weissman, and Mike deConinck.
For more information about the MFC, please contact DMF's Jeanne
Shaw at extension 371.
to Table of Contents?
DMF's gear experts got a crystal clear view of DMF's
off-bottom trawl in action in an experimental flume tank in Newfoundland.
A better understanding of the net's behavior was needed as well
as clear film footage to teach fishermen to deploy the net properly.
DMF's "raised footrope trawl" has already solved some significant
by-catch problems by reducing the catch of juvenile flounders and
other bottom-dwelling finfish and crustaceans in trawls targeting
whiting, dogfish and red hake. However, this work progressed slowly
over the past few years as various net configurations were tested.
DMF biologists would usually measure the effect of any modification
to the net indirectly - by enumerating the species composition when
the net's contents were dumped on deck. Whiting catches associated
with sculpins, crabs, lobster, and small flounders usually meant
the net was "digging" into the substrate while the absence of these
species meant the net was fishing properly. This work was tedious,
often imprecise, and expensive. Furthermore, filming the net on
productive whiting grounds was difficult due to low light levels
and poor visibility.
DMF's Conservation Engineering staff traveled in March to St. John's,
Newfoundland, to the flume tank facility at Memorial University.
Project Leader Arne Carr, Henry Milliken and Dana Morse were joined
by Provincetown fisherman Henry Souza, and Chris Glass, a gear and
fish behavior expert from Scotland currently working with the Manomet
Their objective was to examine the effects of rigging and water
speed on a model trawl equipped with a raised footrope, such as
is used in the fall experimental fishery for whiting in Provincetown
and Gloucester. Fishermen are presently mandated to use the raised
footrope trawl because of the bycatch-reducing properties of the
net. In addition, the researchers hoped to develop videotape, detailing
the effects of changes to the rigging, which would be used as an
educational tool to help fishermen fish their nets most efficiently
- to maximize the target species with minimal by-catch.
The flume tank at the Fishing Technology Unit of Memorial University
is a world-class facility: its working section alone is 70 feet
in length and 26 feet wide, and it carries 400,000 gallons of water.
It is fully equipped with submersible video and still cameras, and
can replicate water speeds scalable to 5 knots. With a movable belt
on the bottom of the tank, it can even replicate the movement of
a trawl over the seabed.
The investigators spent five days at the facility, varying such
things as water speed, flotation, headrope length, sweep length,
and arrangement of the "dropper" chains which connect the sweep
to the footrope. In addition, the model was modified to fish without
a sweep, leaving only the drop chains to keep the net weighted.
Some time was spent examining the effects of placing a tube of canvas-like
material inside the webbing of the extension of the net; a modification
referred to by the group as the "black hole." The black hole is
a modification which, if used in conjunction with a large mesh panel
ahead of it, may induce cod escapement. Scinetists theorize that
the black hole resembles the open mouth of a large predator. [Yikes!]
The results surpassed expectations, and were made all the more valuable
by their capture on videotape and photographs. The group was able
to see which speeds and methods of rigging maximized the vertical
opening of the model, while maintaining the height of the footrope
"off-bottom." Generally, increases in headrope length resulted in
increased headrope height, while a reduction of headline length
caused the net to flatten out, and the footrope to fish closer to
The group discovered that it was fairly easy to rig the net to fish
without a sweep of any sort. Instead, the right number of drop chains
and floats could be used and the net would perform properly "off-bottom."
This is an important development since the net would be easier to
rig and easier to enforce for Coast Guard and the Environmental
This work is seen as an important tool to help fishermen understand
how their gear is fishing, and to improve DMF's ability to communicate
with fishermen about the raised footrope trawl. Additionally, the
link with Memorial University will be a continuing asset, given
their capability and experience for any future gear tests.
Personnel from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans(DFO)
viewed the net and the testing with interest. They have a new shrimp
fishery north of Newfoundland that has a flatfish bycatch problem.
As a result of viewing the gear in the flume tank and discussions
with DMF staff, DFO intends to test this gear in that fishery.
Individuals interested in learning more about the results of this
project are encouraged to contact members of DMF 's Conservation
Engineering Project: Arne Carr, Henry Milliken or Dana Morse, at
the DMF Office in Pocasset, (508)563-1779.
Return to Table of Contents?
New underwater video hardware has enabled the staff
of the Conservation Engineering Group of DMF to gather exceptional
footage of trawl nets, with the added benefit of real-time observation.
Henry Milliken and Dana Morse, of the DMF lab in Pocasset, recently
took the new "pan and tilt" video unit out for field trials, aboard
the F/V Christopher Andrew, owned by Capt. Frank Mirarchi, of Scituate.
The new system is equipped with a "hard wire"- a cable which runs
from the net-mounted camera back to the vessel. Although the system
is limited to fishing in relatively shallow depths (180 feet or
less, presently, it does provide observers with a clear picture
of what is happening as it happens. As the name suggests, the camera
itself can "pan" (look side to side) and "tilt" (look up and down).
This capability allows the researchers to look in virtually any
direction, providing a vastly more comprehensive view. With other
less sophisticated systems, once the camera is placed on the net,
it can only point in one direction, and it is difficult to predict
exactly where the camera will be pointing, once the net is in the
water. In this respect, the pan and tilt unit makes expensive fieldwork
much more efficient.
The three days spent aboard the Christopher Andrew resulted in some
of the clearest footage ever seen by the group. Two different net
types were used, and the camera was placed on several different
locations: just behind the headrope, inside the wing end, inside
the extension piece, and outside the extension. Visibility was a
major factor in the success of the trials, and in many cases approached
30 feet. The movement of the trawl over various bottom types was
of particular interest, as were the actions of the fish species
in the different parts of the net. Project members anticipate many
future uses for this equipment, and are extremely pleased with the
field testing thus far. For more information regarding this project,
contact Henry Milliken, Dana Morse, or Project Leader Arne Carr,
to Table of Contents?
DMF's Sport Fish Program has produced a new and improved
version of its popular "Massachusetts Saltwater Sport Fishing Guide."
As in previous years, the guide contains current information on
launching sites, tackle shops, charter and party boats, fish profiles,
and fishing tournaments to assist you in enjoying our spectacular
array of fishing opportunities from shore or by boat. The guide
is arranged geographically starting from Salisbury (N.H. border)
following the coastline south and west to the towns of Swansea,
Somerset and Seekonk along Narragansett Bay. Then the guide takes
you east to Cape Cod and the Islands. Look for the coastal map centerfold
A copy can be obtained at most bait and tackle shops , or one of
our offices: Boston, Pocasset, Gloucester, or Martha's Vineyard.
Also you may write to DMF at 100 Cambridge St. Boston, 02202. The
phone number is 617-727-3193.
Karen Rypka (Pocasset), Guide Editor
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 Celucci, 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 #17020-12-7000 5/98-$2250
Division of Marine Fisheries
100 Cambridge Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02202
Hearings / Regulations / Legislation
Volume 8 Number 2
of Public Hearings
Regulations for Trap Tags, and Lobster Processing
of Public Hearings Scheduled for May 21, 27 and 28, 1998
the provisions of G.L. c. 30A and pursuant to the authority found
in G.L. c 130 ss. 17A, 17(10), 80, 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 and details.
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 through May 29, and votes on these proposals will be taken
at the June 4 business meeting of the Commission. If no changes
are approved, current regulations will remain in effect.
Petition from the Massachusetts Inshore Commercial Fishermen's Association
for changes to the summer/fall fluke (summer flounder) fishery.
(Note during April 23 through July 5, the 24-hour possession
limit will be 100 lbs.)
Two changes are proposed for this upcoming summer/fall season:
DMF seeks comments on a second petition from Mass. Inshore Commercial
Fishermen's Association. MCFA seeks a limit on the catch and participation
of commercial fishermen catching fluke with hook and line. They've
asked DMF to consider:
Establish no-fishing days for commercial fluke fishermen.
This proposal would prohibit commercial fishing for fluke or possession
of fluke by commercial fishermen in Massachusetts on weekends
(Saturdays and Sundays) during the summer/fall season beginning
July 6 until the annual quota is reached. Also, sale of fluke
by any fishermen to wholesale dealers would be prohibited on weekends
during this period.
Daily Possession Limit from 300 lbs. to 400 lbs. beginning July
public hearing, these issues will be studied by DMF and MFC and may
be considered for formal management proposals for 1999 at future hearings.
fluke "hook" and "mobile gear" commercial permit categories;
a moratorium on additional "hook" permits; and
hook fishermen to a daily possession limit of 25 lbs. per day.
DMF proposal to require all commercial fishermen licensed by DMF
to accommodate sea samplers for the purpose of observing and
acquiring information about fishing operations and sampling catches
for biological information. Currently only the holders of Coastal
Access Permits (trawlers and other mobile gear fishing in Massachusetts
waters) are required to accommodate sea samplers, and this proposal
would extend that permit condition to all gear types and license
types whether the operation was conducted in state or federal waters.
DMF seeks comments on specific proposals regarding the wholesale
processing and possession of frozen shell-on lobster tails by
permitted dealers. See draft regulations on following page. These
regulations were drafted because last November Governor Cellucci
signed S. 1013 that allowed DMF to promulgate regulations permitting
processing of this product for distribution and sale outside the
DMF seeks comments on final proposals that require commercial fishermen
to purchase and attach trap tags to lobster, fish and conch pots.
These proposals are designed to improve compliance and the enforceability
of trap limits. See draft regulations on following page.
DMF seeks comments on two recently enacted emergency actions to
strengthen regulations that prohibit the taking of juvenile eels
hearings have been scheduled: Please note the variable hearing
Size. It shall be unlawful for any person to fish for, take, or
have in possession American eels measuring less than 4 inches
total length (elvers) unless authorized by a special permit issued
by the Director.
Fishing Gear. During the period February 15 through June 15, inclusive,
it shall be unlawful for any person, while in or on the waters
of or upon the banks of streams or rivers within the coastal waters,
to possess or have under his/her control any device with mesh
or openings measuring less than 1/8 inch, including, but not limited
to dip nets, set nets, and traps adapted for the taking of elvers,
or to leave any such gear in said areas during the closed season.
Thursday May 21, 1998 at the Oak Bluffs School Library 5-8 PM on Martha's
Wednesday, May 27 from 6-9 PM in the Friend Room of the Gloucester
Sawyer Free Library; and
Thursday, May 28 from 7-10 PM in the auditorium at Mass Maritime Academy,
to Table of Contents for Rules Update?
regulations regarding trap tags and lobster processing to be discussed
at upcoming May 21-28 public hearings:
(1) Lobster Pots.
(a) After October 1, 1998, it shall be unlawful for any commercial
lobster trap to be fished in any waters under the jurisdiction of
the Commonwealth unless a valid state lobster trap tag is permanently
attached to its bridge or central cross-member. After March 1, 2000,
it shall be unlawful for any recreational lobster trap to be fished
in any waters under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth unless
a valid state lobster trap tag is attached.
(b) Official 1999 commercial tags shall be purchased by permit
holders after July 1, 1998, directly from a manufacturer selected
by the Division according to established competitive bidding procedures.
The 1999 tags will be valid from October 1, 1998, to February 28,
2000. Beginning in 1999, and every year thereafter, new tags for
the following year will be available after December 1, and must
be purchased and installed in the traps before March 1 of each successive
(c) In any year, the maximum number of tags authorized for
direct purchase by each permit holder shall be the trap limit set
by 322 CMR 6.13 plus an additional 10% to cover trap loss. Permit
holders may purchase as many tags as needed up to the maximum. The
maximum order for 1998-1999 shall be 880 per permit holder. Under
no circumstance shall the number of traps fished at any given time
exceed the established trap limit.
(d) In the event of trap or tag losses over and above the
maximum limit established by 322 CMR 6.30(1)(c), replacement tags
shall be issued to the permit holder by the Division according to
the following procedure:
Gear loss shall be reported to the Division and the Division of
Environmental Law Enforcement on an official form, signed by the
permit holder under the pains and penalties of perjury;
The form is reviewed by both Divisions and a decision is reached
on the number of replacement tags to be issued, if any;
If a decision cannot be reached, a hearing will be scheduled in
a Division office to examine evidence and reach a conclusion on
the validity of the claim.
Fish and Conch Pots.
It shall be unlawful to set or fish a lobster trap in waters under
the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth or have a lobster trap in
possession or under control while on said waters unless said trap
is tagged with an official Massachusetts lobster trap tag valid
for the current year.
It shall be a violation of this regulation to file a false claim
of trap or tag loss for purposes of obtaining additional tags.
It shall be a violation of this regulation to alter or deface
a tag, or tamper with the tag(s) of another permit holder.
penalty. A person found guilty of violating this section by a
court of law or pursuant to an adjudicatory hearing shall have
his or her permit suspended and shall be required to remove all
gear from waters underthe jurisdiction of the Commonwealth for
a specified period of time.
(a) After August 31, 1998, it shall be unlawful to fish in
waters under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth with any fish or
conch pot without an official state trap tag permanently attached
to the bridge or central cross-member of the trap.
(b) Tags for 1999 shall be valid from September 1, 1998, to
February 28, 2000. Beginning in 1999, and each year thereafter, tags
for the following year will be available after Dec. 1 and must be
installed by February 28.
(c) Each year, new trap tags shall be purchased by permit holders
directly from a manufacturer selected by the Division on the basis
of established competitive bidding procedures, using the system established
by 322 CMR 6.30(1) for the lobster fishery.
(d) The maximum number of tags authorized for purchase shall
be the pot limits established for each species in 322 CMR 6.15 plus
10% to cover trap losses.
(e) Except as specified in this section, all provisions of
322 6.30(1) shall apply equally to fish and conch pot fisheries.
The processing and possession by wholesale dealers of frozen shell-on
lobster tails for distribution outside Massachusetts under M.G.L.
c. 130, § 44, is subject to the following restrictions:
(a) Licensed wholesale dealers shall apply to the Director
for a special permit to possess, process, store and ship frozen
shell-on lobster tails after receiving a satisfactory inspection
by the Department of Public Health and completing a satisfactory
HACCP plan covering this activity.
(b) By approving the HACCP plan and issuing a special permit,
both agencies acknowledge that the facility named on the permit
has achieved a level of sanitary control equivalent to a USDC Type
(c) All lobsters at the approved facility shall meet the
minimum size requirement established by M.G.L. 130 $ 44.
(d) All processing, freezing, packaging and labeling shall
take place within the approved facility at the address appearing
on the permit.
(e) All packages of frozen lobster tails shall include a
description of the product and the license number of the facility
in which they are processed.
(f) After packaging and labeling is completed, frozen product
may be stored off-site provided accurate records of disposition
and inventory are kept and are available for inspection by Environmental
Police and Division of Food and Drugs Seafood Inspectors.
(g) Following separation of tails for freezing the remaining
portions of each lobster shall be processed at the same facility
in an acceptable manner which is addressed in the approved HACCP
to Table of Contents for Rules Update?
It shall be unlawful for any person or business to possess shell-on
lobstertails unless authorized by a special permit issued by the
Division and the Department of Public Health.
It shall be unlawful for any person to offer shell-on lobster
tails or other shell-on body parts of a mutilated lobster for
sale within the Commonwealth. A lobster shall be considered mutilated
if it has been altered in any way that affects its measurement.
It shall be a violation of this section to possess any lobster
below the minimum legal size in the process area or freezers.
the period February - April, 1998, the following decisions were made
by DMF and the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Commission:
Changes to Striped Bass Management. The Commission voted against
any changes to the recreational or commercial rules for 1998. Changes
to the recreational bag limit were proposed as well as changes to
the commercial size limit and implementation of a bag limit for
For 1998, the following regulations apply and are similar to those
(a) Recreational fishery: Minimum size limit of 28," possession
limit of one (1) fish, no closed season.
(b) Commercial fishery: Minimum size of 34," no possession
limit, season opens July 6, 1998, commercial quota not to exceed
750,000 lbs. and the usual schedule of 3-weeks open/1-week closed
Flounder commercial season delayed. The Commission approved
a delay (opening date moved from June 17 to July 6) for the summer/fall
season when the trip limit increases from 100 to 300 lbs. At the
upcoming public hearings in May, however, DMF will accept comments
on a petition to increase the possession limit to 400 lbs. as well
as to adopt no-fishing days (weekends). Final decisions on this
petition will be made at the June 4 Marine Fisheries Commission
meeting. During April 23 - July 5 the fluke possession limit will
be 100 lbs.
Summer flounder recreational size limit increased from 14"
to 15" and the bag limit was dropped from 10 to 8 fish, consistent
with the interstate plan.
sea bass fishery management
dealers purchasing black sea bass must report
their purchases to DMF’s Statistics Program, as is currently done
for certain species (striped bass, bluefish, summer flounder and scup).
Commercial fishing trip limits were enacted to ensure Massachusetts
complies with the interstate plan. These commercial limits apply
to vessels regardless of the number of fishermen aboard. During
January - April the limit will be 11,000 lbs. and during May - December
a 2,000 lb. limit applies. The 2,000 lb. limit is more restrictive
than allowed by the interstate plan. These limits are per 24-hour
Recreational bag limit of 20 fish enacted.
possession limits were enacted and will vary by gear type: These
commercial limits apply to vessels regardless of the number of fishermen
Trawlers will be limited to 1,500 lbs. per 24-hour day.
Fishermen using pots or hook and line will be limited to 500 lbs.
per 24-hour day.
Weirs are exempted from any limit
Recreational fishermen will be limited to a bag
limit of 100 fish. This limit, while not
mandated under the interstate plan, will improve the enforceability
of the commercial rules. This limit is sufficiently liberal to not
impact most recreational anglers. Without the recreational bag limit,
vessels would be able to claim they were recreationally fishing and
not be subject to commercial trip limits or commercial closed fishing
cod trip limits were adopted to complement federal rules concerning
Gulf ofMaine cod. Any vessel fishing in state waters in Cape Cod
Bay or waters north to the N.H. border (north of 42 degrees latitude)
are limited to 1,000 lbs.
to Table of Contents for Rules Update?
and scup have moved to the Senate! H. 5426, which would increase fines
for the taking of egg-bearing lobsters and H. 91 which would authorize
the Division of Marine Fisheries to promulgate regulations regarding
the transfer of limited-entry fishery permits such as scup and sea
bass, are currently in Senate Ways and Means. We hope the Senate will
act upon these bill before they debate the FY '99 budget, so please
contact Senate Ways and Means 722-1481 and lend your support.
to Table of Contents for Rules Update?
Return to Table of Contents?
is published quarterly to publicize regulatory matters affecting
Director: Philip G. Coates, DMF
Commissioner: John C. Phillips, DFWELE
Secretary: Trudy Coxe, EOEA
Governor: Argeo Paul Celucci
Editor: Daniel J. McKiernan, DMF / Art Dir.: David G. Gabriel, DFWELE