15, Third Quarter July - September 1995
FOR NATURAL DISASTER DECLARATION DENIED: APPEAL UNDERWAY
AND NE AQUARIUM TO STUDY GROUNDFISH LONGLINING
AVAILABLE FOR FISHERMEN CONSIDERING CAREER CHANGES
SEA BASS RESEARCH TO AID MANAGEMENT
ON THE SCUP PLAN: CURTAIL DISCARDS AND OFFSHORE FISHING
to Restrict Cod, Haddock, and Yellowtail Catches Will Bring Unprecedented
It has been about a year since fishery scientists reported the continued
decline of key groundfish stocks, especially Georges Bank cod, haddock,
and yellowtail flounder. They concluded that effort reduction measures
of Amendment #5 adopted in spring 1994 would not stop the decline
of these species. In response, the Council acted swiftly by voting
to adopt other fishing restrictions including a closure of prime
fishing areas on George's Bank and south of Nantucket Island. Recognizing
that much more needs to be done to rebuild groundfish stocks, the
Council has spent the past year working diligently to develop Amendment
At these hearings, comments will be accepted on four fundamentally
different alternatives that limit catches through one or more of
the following: massive closed areas, gear restrictions, further
limits on fishing days per vessel, trips limits, or quarterly quotas
for each species. These alternatives have in common a Total Allowable
Catch (TAC) _ maximum catches from each stock. The TAC will either
stop groundfishing entirely or will be a target triggering tightened
restrictions for the following year.
Here's a summary of the alternatives excerpted from the Draft Supplemental
Environmental Impact Statement:
1, the most restrictive of the four proposals, would prohibit
throughout the region fishing with any gear capable of catching
groundfish. This alternative would directly impact other important
fisheries that have a groundfish bycatch. Under this alternative,
however, stocks would rebuild faster than under any of the other
2 would close up to half of the area and would regulate fishing
in the open areas with possession limits and gear restrictions.
Target TACs would be used to monitor the plan effectiveness and
make adjustments as appropriate, but they could become absolute
quotas in the third year if the plan fails to meet its goals in
the first two years. This alternative would protect vast areas of
habitat important to groundfish species.
3 would extend management measures currently in effect, such
as the days-at-sea controls, to achieve the rebuilding objectives.
Allowable days-at-sea fishing for groundfish would be reduced and
measures such as possession limits, area closures and gear restrictions
would be imposed. Under this alternative, vessels could engage in
fisheries other than groundfish during the time they are required
to declare out of groundfishing, other than the required layover
time at the dock.
4 would divide TACs into regional, quarterly quotas and apply
measures, such as possession limits and gear restrictions, to distribute
available catch to as many vessels as possible. If a TAC for a species/area/quarter
is reached, possession of that species would be prohibited and measures
would be implemented to minimize discarded fish. This alternative
would also close areas important to juvenile and spawning fish,
including a January-June closure of Georges Bank and Nantucket Shoals.
fishing could be restricted by a minimum fish size, bag limit
(for private recreational anglers) and a no-sale provision. Party/charter
vessels, which may also be commercial fishing vessels, would be
required to declare the time they are engaged in party/charter fishing.
Recreational fishing for groundfish species in spawning area closures
could also be restricted or prohibited.
Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 that allow some level of fishing will be
hotly debated among the various sectors of the industry because
the proposals will directly _ or indirectly _ allocate groundfish
to one sector at the expense of another. For example, area closures
in Alternative #2 will impact ports adjacent to closed areas most
severely. Alternative #3's days-at-sea proposals would impact smallest
vessels if TACs are reached quickly by large more powerful fishing
vessels. And, trip limits proposed in Alternative #4 will favor
smaller vessels capable of economically operating on small trip
limits (e.g. 500 lbs.) while larger vessels cannot compete.
The "bottom line" is that each alternative is extremely painful
and will result in unprecedented economic and social impact. Cod,
haddock, and yellowtail have been mainstays of the commercial fleet,
and the plan must reduce fishing on these species "to as close to
zero as practicable." Among all Northeast states, the pain will
be most intense in Massachusetts. In 1993, New Bedford and Gloucester
ranked first and second among ports for cod, haddock and yellowtail
flounder landings. Boston, Scituate, Sandwich, Chatham, and Provincetown
are also dependent on groundfish.
Will other species be an outlet for the fleet? It looks unlikely.
Catches of the seven remaining regulated groundfish species also
will be managed under an aggregate TAC to prevent these species
from collapsing too. These species are white hake, redfish, pollock,
witch flounder, American plaice, windowpane flounder, and winter
flounder. Dogfish, herring, mackerel _ the so-called "underutilized
species" _ will not be able to support most of the fleet because
markets of these species are very limited, and gluts likely will
occur unless demand increases dramatically. Value of these species
is just a fraction of traditional groundfish. Furthermore, "whitefish"
imports from Alaska and Europe are already filling the void caused
by declining local catches.
Catch restrictions are expected to last at least two to three years
for yellowtail flounder and up to ten years for haddock before catches
may be allowed to significantly increase. In the interim before
stocks recover, the Council will have to determine how groundfish
will be caught in the future, that is, what gear types will favored
over others. Wrestling over this question about the character of
future groundfish fisheries, will be a major management challenge
for the Council.
Finally, DMF and the Marine Fisheries Commission must anticipate
the reaction of the fishing fleets and prevent increased fishing
in state waters. The next few years promise to be quite contentious.
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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has denied Governor
Weld's request to President Clinton for a declaration of disaster
relating to the collapse of the groundfish fishery. The details of
this request were provided in the last issue of the NEWS.
According to James L. Witt, FEMA's director in his July 21 letter
to Governor Weld:
have concluded that the impact of this event is not of the severity
and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration..."
This conclusion, FEMA's mistaken belief that adequate state and
federal financial resources already appear available to the Commonwealth
to address the decline in Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine groundfishing
stocks, and the need for Massachusetts to make a better case for
the existence of a natural disaster, have prompted the Commonwealth
to appeal this decision.
An emphasis of the appeal is that a great deal of scientific information
and consensus exists to support the Commonwealth's arguments for
the declaration. Recent scientific reports, peer-reviewed and published
research, and conclusions of federal Stock Assessment Workshops
provide a sound and defensible technical basis for the request that
is not based just on speculations or on a downplaying of the effects
of fishing. For example, at a recent Northeast Fisheries Science
Center Stock Assessment Workshop, when the multispecies fish dynamics
on Georges Bank was discussed, an important conclusion was made:
in predation, and possibly competition, over recent years has contributed
to a shift in the stable equilibrium of commercially important species
(e.g., haddock and cod) resulting in reduced resilience to fishing
The appeal does not argue that fishing mortality is unimportant
and does not need to be controlled. In fact, the opposite is true,
and the Commonwealth has taken a lead role in the development of
the New England Fishery Management Council's Amendment 7 to the
Multispecies Plan with its focus on rebuilding cod, haddock, and
yellowtail flounders. However, the appeal does argue that even with
fishing mortality reduced to very low levels, groundfish abundance
will be very slow to rebound due to unfavorable environmental conditions,
predation, and competition with other species _ all natural factors.
With more persuasive arguments and a more careful explanation about
what the Commonwealth is trying to accomplish through this declaration,
perhaps FEMA will change its view and respond favorably to the Governor's
request thereby providing monies for fishermen's job retraining,
unemployment benefits, and mortgage assistance. This sort of aid
will become critical once the New England Council's Amendment #7
to its Multispecies Plan is implemented. As noted in the NEWS article
describing some alternatives of Amendment #7, the Council's need
to rebuild collapsed groundfish stocks will place a heavy economic
burden on Massachusetts fishing industry for some time to come.
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of low by-catch and high discard survival will be examined. DMF's
Conservation Engineering Program - led by H. Arnold Carr - and the
New England Aquarium were awarded another Saltonstall-Kennedy federal
grant to work with commercial fishermen on groundfish survival and
gear selectivity. Their next project will focus on longlines targeting
groundfish species: cod and haddock.
DMF and the Aquarium collaborated on three previous federal grants
that examined trawling and fish survival. The work focused on survival
of cod and flatfish discarded after being netted and dumped on a
fishing vessel's deck. The degree of stress that fish suffered -
and factors influencing that stress - were examined. This study
will be timely because the groundfish crisis and its restoration
will require tight controls on catch and discards.
A small group of Chatham-area fishermen petitioned the New England
Fishery Management Council to allow them to harvest groundfish citing
their small percentage of groundfish effort. Hook fishermen hold
53% of the groundfish permits in New England, and account for only
5.5% of cod landings in Massachusetts. These longliners argued that
their gear is highly selective and results in high survival of those
Work to examine catch composition and methods to improve gear selectivity
will be done on a handful of active longliners' vessels, these vessels
are small - typically less than 45 ft long. But a larger vessel
(probably a dragger rigged for hooking) will be used to fish experimentally
during the more intensive studies of fish survival. This vessel,
not typical of the active longline fleet, will provide a better
at-sea working platform for physiological studies of discarded cod
and haddock. This effort will focus on the claim that juvenile fish
caught by hooks survive due to minimal stress induced by capture.
Stress levels will be measured by examining fishes' blood chemistry.
Selectivity of longline gear will include examining hook size, hook
spacing, and bait size. Some of this work is already in progress
through a NOAA/National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant already
awarded to DMF. The new grant will allow for a more thorough investigation
that will build on initial data being acquired this summer.
For more details, contact DMF's Arnold Carr and Jessica Harris or
Dr. Marianne Farrington of the Aquarium's Edgerton Research Laboratory.
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Most commercial fishermen have heard that there are programs for themselves
- or family members - to obtain job skills to help them get past the
imminent shortage of catchable groundfish. Officials managing these
programs are calling out to industry urging them to take advantage
now - because these federal funds will be diverted to other programs
if left unused.
Gloucester, New Bedford, Cape Cod and the Islands. These regions
will soon share a common problem: many vessels and fishermen looking
at little or no means to earn a living off the water. While some
may opt to continue to fish, others may consider an alternative
career. And that help is available at the Fishing Family Assistance
Centers (FFAC) located in New Bedford, Gloucester, and Hyannis funded
by Massachusetts Industrial Services Program. The three Centers
were awarded $2.4 million from the U.S. Dept of Labor for retraining
affected workers from the fishing industry.
Many fishermen have already capitalized on these opportunities and
obtained training for new careers in a variety of areas, such as
plumbing, heating, air conditioning, horticulture, aquaculture.
Other vocations that fishermen have gained training for include
whale watch captain, airplane pilot, charter boat skipper, and horseback
riding instructor - almost anything that works as a means to bring
home some bacon.
The program offers a wide variety of assistance such as academic
remediation and personal and budget counseling, to help ease the
burden when the waterman goes back to school - if that's the chosen
path. The program is designed to help watermen find answers to uncomfortable
questions of what other jobs fishermen would be qualified for, or
Since the program began some months ago, eligibility requirements
have broadened extensively. Many fishermen who applied and were
deemed ineligible should take a second look. They may find they
are now eligible for the many services provided to them, as well
as their families, along with workers employed in various onshore
phases of the industry. Lumpers, filet house workers, truckers are
now eligible. Furthermore, fishermen's wives, who are recognized
as a traditional linchpin to any functional fishing family are also
encouraged to contact their area Fishing Family Assistance Center.
Make the call - this fall. Like the seasons, opportunities pass.
On the North Shore, call Charlie Veradt at the Gloucester FFAC (508)
283-2508, in the Fall River - New Bedford area call Gary Golas (508)
961-3014; and on Cape Cod and the Islands call Lou MacKeil at 1-800-656-FISH
Lou MacKeil, Cape Cod & Islands Program Coordinator.
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This past spring DMF's Paul Caruso received his Master of Science
Degree in Fisheries and Aquaculture from the University of Rhode Island.
His thesis, "The biology and fisheries of black sea bass (Centropristis
striata) in Massachusetts waters," was based on two fishing seasons
of extensive market sampling and one season of sea sampling by DMF's
sea sampling program. His objectives were to: (1) determine age and
growth of local sea bass, time of peak spawning, maturity rates, harvest
rates, and estimates of yield and spawning stock biomass reference
points and (2) characterize the local fish pot fishery regarding catch,
by-catch, areas fished, and timing.
Black sea bass, considered a temperate reef fish, is an important
recreational and commercial species found within the waters of Massachusetts,
primarily south of Cape Cod from spring through fall. The species
is managed by the Mid-Atlantic Council and the Atlantic States Marine
Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), and is considered overfished, with
levels of fishing far in excess of all biological reference points.
DMF and the Marine Fisheries Commission have aggressively managed
this species in state waters by establishing a minimum size limit
of 12", limits on licenses and pots for fish potters, and 4 1/2"
minimum net mesh opening for trawlers.
However, because many aspects of the biology and fisheries for this
species are uncertain, analyzing new management options has been
difficult. Biological assessments are complicated because many black
sea bass transform from females to males (protogynous hermaphrodism)
between the ages of 2 and 4.
Paul found growth rates were faster than those previously documented
in studies in more southern waters, and males grew faster than females.
Paul's maturity results were also revealing. Over 99% of the 1,415
sea bass examined were mature, including sublegal fish between 8
and 12" (predominately age 2). This contrasted with past studies
from other areas where just 50% of age 2 fish were documented as
In light of the faster growth rate and the unexpected full maturity
of age 2 sea bass, Paul concluded that in Massachusetts waters,
only the older and mature fish recruit to our spring/summer fishery.
Therefore, Massachusetts' 12" minimum size allows 2 year-old bass
to spawn prior to reaching legal size.
Spawning peaked during mid-June in 1993 and 1994 when water temperatures
were between 65 and 68oF. More specifically, Paul found a June 14
to June 21, 1993 spawning peak for legal-size females. The peak
occurred shortly after July 12 for sublegal fish. Paul's findings
will be valuable to fishery managers considering spawning closures.
Ripe legal-sized females were observed starting mid-May 1993 through
the end of the spawning time period, July 12, 1993. Thus for a local
spawning closure to be entirely effective at protection of spawning
females it would have to encompass the time when fish first come
on to the local grounds, approximately May 1 until the end of July.
This potential closed season represents 3 out of 6 months that sea
bass are available to local fisheries."
In fact, at February 1994 public hearings DMF proposed a May-June
spawning closure (ban on possession), but the closure was not adopted
because the Council and ASMFC had not completed its plan for management
of bass in federal waters. Also, DMF biologists were not confident
about the ages of locally caught sea bass and timing of spawning
in Nantucket Sound. Now, Paul's research has documented the structure
and timing, and the federal Council soon will air its proposed plan.
Massachusetts contrasts with the majority of other states with much
smaller, or no size limits for sea bass and where many are caught
that have not reached sexual maturity. Paul concluded that to effectively
manage the population of black sea bass that enters our waters,
fishing mortality must be controlled in all fisheries the stock
encounters including those offshore.
DMF remains concerned about the fate of age 1 fish. Paul's age samples
from sea-sampled catch were devoid of age 1 fish. Furthermore, age
1 fish are absent in Massachusetts waters sampled by DMF's spring
bottom trawl survey and DMF's sea sampling of the commercial fishery.
These young fish are probably being caught elsewhere - offshore
in federal waters and in other states to the south. DMF will continue
to advocate more restrictive fishing controls in other states and
offshore. Without restrictions on bass throughout its range, sea
bass have little chance to recover.
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While the New England Council struggles with Amendment #7 to the Multispecies
Fishery Management Plan (FMP), the Mid-Atlantic Council grapples with
its own multispecies management problems. The Council aired its proposed
Scup FMP at July hearings with one held in New Bedford where an outcry
was heard: managers shouldn't postpone meaningful action. Local party
boat fishermen and weir fishermen are finding fewer scup of commercial
size, especially this year. They fear for their livelihoods. If it
would do any good for the resource, some fishermen even were willing
to accept further state waters restrictions to curtail fishing that
occurs when fish arrive in the spring.
This FMP is the Council's latest installment in its series of plans
with the commonality of a mixed-species fishery "problem for resolution."
This plan is being developed in cooperation with the Atlantic States
Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Other species managed by the
Mid-Atlantic Council, namely squid, butterfish, black sea bass,
and fluke pose a similar management dilemma.
DMF works with other states through the ASMFC to manage fluke, scup,
sea bass and squid in state waters. But for federal waters, where
most scup are caught, the Mid-Atlantic Council is responsible, and
Massachusetts is not a member of that Council.
The New England Council has long labored to resolve by-catch issues
for groundfish. It has adopted large area closures to groundfishing,
and larger areas are being considered as alternatives for Amendment
#7. It's now time for the Mid-Atlantic Council to consider this
type of strategy before it is faced with collapsed stocks and the
need to curtail fishing to minimal levels with all that portends.
We fear very low (fluke-like) commercial quotas will create a Herculean
task for states having to allocate any quota between inshore fisheries
pursued by numerous gear types.
DMF submitted extensive comments on the Scup FMP. We focused on
the mixed-species fishery problem, discards, overfishing, Northeast
Fishery Science Center stock assessment advice, quotas, and the
lengthy timetable for reducing exploitation. The plan does little
more than briefly describe the nature of the mixed species fishery,
and acknowledge that "appropriate and effective management strategies"
is complicated. The plan contains no measures to "specifically address
the mixed trawl fishery problem." And it is a major problem!
Scup are taken by a variety of gears: otter trawls, midwater trawls,
pots, pound nets (weirs), floating traps, and handlines; all pose
their own management challenge, particularly how to deal with discards.
For example, in 1993, an estimated 14 million fish were discarded,
while 16 million were landed, and in 1992 the amount discarded (by
weight) almost equalled commercial landings.
Scup age composition is now severely truncated and fisheries are
increasingly dependent on juveniles. About 87% of total catch in
numbers during 1992 and 1993 consisted of largely immature less
than 7" fish (young-of-the-year and ages 1 and 2). From 1985-1991
the percentage was about 74%.
This discarding and dependency on juveniles have caused scup to
be seriously overfished. There is an 80% probability that the 1993
exploitation rate was between 57-83%, compared to a target of about
20%. Combine these annual removals due to fishing with natural mortality,
and total mortality ranges from 64% to 96%. With a mid-range of
about 80%, not many survive.
Spawning stock biomass (SSB-total weight of all spawning fish in
the population) is decreasing and may have declined almost 50% in
just three years, from an estimated 14.5 million lbs. in 1992 to
just 7.9 million lbs. in 1994, considerably below the 1985-1992
average of about 18 million pounds. SSB is far below the biomass
required to support a long-term potential catch of 22-33 million
pounds. In 1993 commercial landings almost equalled the spawning
stock biomass by weight!
We've insisted that the mixed-species/discard problem is probably
near impossible to resolve with fish and mesh minimum size requirements,
or even with quotas, unless they are combined with some means to
stop small-mesh fishing for the mix (scup, squid, whiting, sea bass,
butterfish, etc.) at key times of the year. Large season/area closures
should be considered for offshore fisheries during fall through
spring that target vulnerable concentrations of overwintering fish.
Closures will greatly reduce the amount of discards of juvenile
and sublegal fish without a total reliance on difficult-to-enforce
We also suggested to the Council that its proposed 9" total length
minimum size for the commercial fishery (Massachusetts' minimum
size) in years 1 and 2 of the plan is a step in right direction,
but too few fish will reach this size due to high discards of immature
We did not offer any more state restrictions to complement whatever
is implemented for the EEZ because Massachusetts already addressed
many of the issues. For example, we've banned night-trawling when
scup are most vulnerable; closed large areas to trawlers - some
year-round like Buzzards Bay, while others are closed seasonally
from May 1 through October 31; required 4 1/2" minimum mesh openings
for trawlers catching scup during June - October; While no minimum
mesh size opening is required during the squid season from late
April through May, we've shown discards of scup taken in the squid
fishery generally is low. In our popular summer-time fluke trawl
fishery, discards are negligible because trawlers use nets with
6" mesh openings. During 11 sampled fluke trips in the sounds from
1994-95 discards averaged less than 10 lbs. per trip.
Finally, we established limited entry for trawlers and last April
we prohibited many large trawlers (larger than 72') from fishing
the sounds for scup or any other species.
Discards in other Massachusetts non-trawling fisheries have low
mortality. Massachusetts weir fishermen dipnet their fish in less
than 30 feet of water and release sublegal (less than 9" total length)
scup in excellent condition. We presume the impact of commercial
hook-and-line fishermen is also minimal if scup catch-and-release
mortality is similar to that documented by DMF for black sea bass
(about 5%). Finally, pot fishermen tend to fish in relatively shoal
Massachusetts waters. Pots are usually hauled more than once per
day, and sublegal fish are returned to the water soon after hauling.
We hope the Council and ASMFC will conclude that excessive discards,
dependence on immature fish, and overfishing make a very compelling
case for wholesale fishing reduction, especially for the offshore
mixed species trawl fishery. Our experience with groundfish makes
us wary of postponing until tomorrow, what we all know must be done
David E. Pierce, co-editor and Massachusetts representative to the
ASMFC Fluke, Scup, and Sea Bass Board.
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England Council appointment: Orleans fisherman Bill Amaru, owner/operator
of the trawler JOANNE A, was appointed to the New England Fishery
Management Council. DMF has worked with Bill for many years on conservation
projects devised to reduce by-catch in small-mesh fisheries. Last
month he received a grant from National Marine Fisheries Service (S-K
program) to test various trawl configurations to minimize by-catch
of regulated groundfish species (flounders, cod, haddock) in the whiting
fishery. Bill will "hit the ground running" as the Council debates
and approves new rules to rebuild groundfish stocks. Bill replaces
Tom Hill of Gloucester.
federal bluefin tuna rules are welcome news to the multitude
of small-boat handline & rod-and-reel tuna fishermen of Massachusetts.
Monthly quotas will ensure the season lasts into October. In the
past few years, the quota was filled by August or early September,
and most fish were landed off Maine prior to their arrival in abundance
off Massachusetts. Tuna value increases commensurate with increasing
fat content later in summer and fall. To slow the catch and to avoid
market gluts, "no-fishing" days (Sundays, Mondays, and Wednesdays)
were enacted with a few exceptions. Additional changes were enacted
including a controversial allocation shift of 51 metric tons from
Purse Seine Category to the Reserve Category. Other changes include
minimum sizes of 22" for yellowfin and bigeye tunas.
Contact NMFS in Gloucester for details. Reminder: Any vessel landing
a giant bluefin tuna in Massachusetts must possess a Mass. commercial
Soon: Russian processing ships off Gloucester - perhaps. The
Marine Fisheries Commission has recommended Governor Weld that permit
a Russian factory trawlers to anchor off Gloucester and purchase
sea herring from local fishermen as part of an "Internal Waters
Processing Operation" (IWP). Sea herring stocks have reached record
levels but domestic markets remain miniscule. Recent approval of
a federal management plan m
result in federally approved joint ventures allowing processing
vessels to follow catcher vessels into the Gulf of Maine and George's
Bank. In contrast, IWP rules mandate the processor vessel anchor
in state internal waters to await deliveries.
(a.k.a. menhaden) have meandered into Boston Harbor this summer
and provided a source of bait for hundreds of local lobstermen and
many more recreational fishermen. As expected, striped bass fishing
is reported greatly improved in the inner harbor. During the last
two years, pogies were scarce or nonexistent in the inner harbors
north of Cape Cod.
Despite an apparent decline in Massachusetts river herring spawning
stocks over the last two years, 1995 proved to be an exceptionally
strong one. DMF's ongoing monitoring in three streams tell the story.
Monument River in Bourne, monitored for the last 15 years, had an
all-time high return of 433,000 herring in 1995. The Mattapoisett
River's counted return was 75,000 easily beating the previous high
of 47,000 in 1990. In Back River (Weymouth), where volunteers have
been conducting a visual count since 1988, the estimated run size
was 800,000 compared to a high of 650,000 in 1991. Observations
by DMF personnel and others of streams with no official monitoring
program indicate that many other river herring populations showed
a substantial increase in 1995.
bass. Fishing's been great, but that's not news to anyone. All
states have finally enacted their new fishing rules allowed under
Amendment # 5 of the Striped Bass Plan. While Massachusetts recreational
anglers generally opposed liberalizing our rules, states with coastal
fisheries from Rhode Island all the way to North Carolina will take
advantage the lowered (28") minimum size limit. These same states
all adopted 2-fish bag limits with the exception of New York where
only customers of charter & party boats can keep two fish. Many
of these states recognized the benefits of consistent regulations
among neighboring states. However in the Gulf of Maine there's a
consistent bag limit of 1 fish but, there's no consistency in size:
Massachusetts has a 34" size limit, while New Hampshire adopted
32" and Maine remained at 36".
Massachusetts commercial season opened on July 1 and thanks to the
3-week open/1-week closed format, the 750,000 lbs. quota will last
past Labor Day and close on September 9. Landings have averaged
between 9,000 and 15,000 lbs. per day.
flounder (fluke) commercial season also closed on September
9 when Massachusetts landings were expected to reach the state's
allocation of 984,246 lbs. This summer's fishery was managed with
a 300 lb. daily catch limit. Fishermen reported good catches of
large fish, and most trawlers fishing in Nantucket and Vineyard
Sounds reached the daily limit after just a few tows. DMF sea sampling
confirmed the size and catch rate. Summer flounder, especially "large"
and "jumbo" sized fish are marketed for use as "sushi", and ex-vessel
prices are among the highest for any flatfish. Thanks to high prices,
even a 300 lb. catch limit was profitable this summer for inshore
fishermen. The scale of the 1995 fishery is markedly reduced from
a decade ago due to a 72' maximum vessel size limit, ban on night-time
trawling, 300 lb. catch limit, and 6" trawl mesh openings to allow
small fish to escape. Quotas for 1996 will be determined by the
ASMFC and Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council this fall. DMF
will hold November public hearings to discuss any proposed management
changes for 1996.
squid season was extended for trawlers one week in early June.
Catches appeared up slightly from 1994 but still below average according
to reports from weir fishermen and draggermen. Trawlers found squid
in harvestable quantities during the second week of May with a surprising
mix of both large and small squid in the catch from the outset.
Fishing effort by large trawlers was reduced given DMF's new regulation
prohibiting vessels over 72 ft from trawling in state waters. A
legal challenge to the 72 ft. rule (request for preliminary injunction)
was denied in Suffolk Superior Court.
Squid ageing research got a boost last month when Dr. William Macy
of URI received a federal grant (S-K) to further examine squid size
and age composition. Dr. Macy has already published a landmark study
that altered squid management when he determined Loligo squid was
an annual species capable of spawning year-round. Dr. Macy counted
squid daily growth rings and concluded squid live less than 12 months
- quite remarkable when you hold a large male squid whose mantle
(tube) measures the length of your forearm. Previous estimates of
Loligo squid life span ranged from 1.5 to 3 years. DMF's report
on the Nantucket Sound squid fishery (copies still available..)
recommended further ageing studies to determine the relative importance
of summer inshore vs. winter offshore spawning.
Finally, DMF's Resource Assessment Project recently published "Evaluating
the Effects of Two Coastal Mobile Gear Fishing Closures on Finfish
Abundance off Cape Cod", published by the American Fisheries Society
in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management. The
study focused on the local squid trawl fishery's effects on local
fish abundance to answer local anglers petition to restrict trawling
back in 1993.
IS COMING! The annual state-wide beach clean-up, known as COASTSWEEP,
will occur this year on Saturday, September 16. COASTSWEEP is organized
by Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management (MCZM) and clean-ups are
led by local coordinators. Last year, over 5,000 volunteers participated
at 75 locations in ridding our beaches of hundreds of thousands
of trash pieces.
Marine debris is not only aesthetically unpleasing, but it can be
dangerous and unhealthy to both people and animals. Children can
cut themselves on glass or rusty metal. Animals get entangled in
six-pack holders or swallow plastic bags they mistake for food.
Recreational boats are damaged by stray fishing lines and large
COASTSWEEP is also part of an international campaign organized by
the Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) in Washington, DC. Participants
all over the world collect marine debris while also recording the
types of trash they collect. This information is reported to Congress
where policy-makers can formulate solutions to marine debris based
on the potential sources identified.
For the name and phone number of the local coordinator in your town,
or if you would like to organize the clean-up of a beach or an underwater
clean-up, call MCZM's information line at (617) 727-9530, ext. 420.
to table of contents
EDITORS:Dan McKiernan and David Pierce
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.
G. Coates, Director, DMF
John C. Phillips, Comm'nr DFWELE
Trudy Coxe, Secretary, EOEA
William F. Weld, 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.