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
16 Third Quarter July-September 1996
to Ban Sale of Striped Bass Rejected
Sportfisheries Program News
Making A Splash! Campaign
DMF Raises Concerns About Proposed Scup Quotas
Lobster News including:
on PCBs: Seafood Safety Policy and Guidance
State Law Limits Netters' Lobster Landings;
Method Will Detect Lobster Eggs Removal
Value Reaches Record Levels in 1995
Federal Report Examines Lobster Stocks and Critiques Assessment
Rules Update, includes Public
Hearing notices and Regulatory & Legislative Updates
Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Commission and DMF Director Philip
Coates rejected the petition to ban sale of wild-caught striped bass.
The petition was submitted by the Coastal Conservation Association
(CCA) of Massachusetts and sponsored by the Orvis Company, renowned
flyfishing manufacturer. Over 400 people attended two public hearings
held during May. The Commission and Director considered extensive
and often passionate testimony and scores of letters submitted to
The petitioners stated that striped bass "should be reserved for
the use of recreational fishermen only" and that "as long as a commercial
fishery exists, striped bass is in danger of another collapse."
Promoted as a "conservation project," public testimony focused instead
primarily on financial benefits attributable to sportfishing. Petition
supporters also used the hearings as an opportunity to raise their
personal objections to the current state - and interstate - management
of striped bass.
Opposition to the petition did not fall along expected recreational
vs. commercial lines. Many organizations that promote sportfishing
opposed the petition, such as the Cape Cod Charterboat Assoc., and
Cape Cod Salties. The Mass. Sportsman's Council and the Worcester
and Barnstable County Leagues of Sportsmen's Clubs voted to oppose
the petition and "support professional fisheries management of striped
bass." Also, prominent conservation groups weighed in against the
petition: Conservation Law Foundation, Greenpeace, and Mass. Audubon.
Commission members who voted against the petition felt that since
striped bass' resurgence was accomplished by sacrifices by both
recreational and commercial fishermen over the past 15 years, it
would be unfair to deny commercial fishermen the fruits of the recovery.
Furthermore, Massachusetts commercial fishermen accounted for 33%
of the harvest, but just 15% of bass mortality in 1995. The largest
source of bass mortality results from catch-and-release since an
estimated 8% of the 3.1 million bass caught and released by anglers
are presumed to die.
Massachusetts commercial fisheries are capped by annual quotas,
and landings are intensely monitored by DMF biologists. Rules are
rigorously enforced by the Mass. Environmental Police. Striped bass
in Massachusetts may only be harvested by hook and line, so the
recreational and commercial fisheries are quite compatible, in contrast
to some other fisheries where commercial netting contrasts with
recreational angling. CCA chapters in other states, such as Florida,
Texas, and Louisiana, have scored significant victories against
commercial harvesters via anti-netting campaigns where commercial
and recreational fisheries are more divided.
For DMF and the Commission, the hearings served to reveal anxiety
- even fear - among some recreational fishermen for the future of
striped bass. Given the decline of some popular groundfish species,
some anglers feared bass stocks could be subjected to commercial
overfishing. But according to DMF's Director, the Atlantic States
Marine Fisheries Commission Striped Bass Management Plan is a conservative
plan for managers to use as a model to recover other depressed fish
stocks. He urged the petitioners and the concerned public to learn
more about the plan's safeguards against overfishing and welcomed
them to contact DMF for more information. The Striped Bass Plan
is an "adaptive plan" meaning annual stock assessments are conducted
allowing timely changes to each state's fishing rules when warranted.
Consequently at its June 6 meeting, the Commission approved rules
similar to last year's: commercial quota of 718,000 lbs. (750,000
minus the 1995 overage of 32,000 lbs., a conservative quota since
the plan allocates Massachusetts 802,000 lbs.); a July 1 opening;
a three week open and one week closed schedule until the annual
quota is reached; and a 34" minimum size. The state's commercial
quota is expected to be filled by early September, as in 1995.
Recreational fishermen are still limited to 1 fish per day and the
same minimum size of 34". These rules are more restrictive than
most coastal states. From Rhode Island south to North Carolina,
anglers in coastal fisheries are allowed 2 fish per day with a minimum
size of 28".
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Salt Water Fishing Derby
remind anglers that each year the DMF's Sportfisheries Program sponsors
the annual contest that runs from March 1st to November 30th and is
open to men, women and children of all age groups. There are no entry
fees and pre-registration is not required. Twenty four coastal gamefish
species are eligible for entry in the derby. The fish must meet the
minimum weight specifications listed below.
Eligible Minimum Eligible Minimum
Species WT (lbs.) Species WT (lbs.)
Bluefish 010 Mako Shark 100
Blue Marlin 250 Pollock 020
Bluefin Tuna 300 Scup 002
Blue Shark 150 Sea Bass 003
Bonito 007 Striped Bass 030
Cod 025 Swordfish 150
Cusk 020 Tautog 008
False Albacore 010 Weakfish 010
Fluke 005 White Marlin 060
Haddock 008 Winter Flounder 002
Halibut 050 Wolffish 020
Mackerel 002 Yellowfin Tuna 050
Fish entered must be caught in a fair and sporting manner on hook
and line and must be weighed and measured at an official weigh-station
on a certified scale. Weigh-masters can be found at most local marinas
and tackle shops. Weigh-masters will provide the official entry form
which you should then mail to:
Saltwater Fishing Derby
PO Box 1268, Sandwich, MA 02563
Entries must be received within 30 days of catch and postmarked
no later than December 10th. All qualifying entrants will receive
an enameled pin depicting the agency's codfish logo and the Sportfisheries
Program's new "Massachusetts Saltwater Fishing Derby" poster. At
the end of each derby year, trophies are awarded to anglers who
landed the heaviest fish in each of the 24 species categories. Winners
are chosen in three divisions - men, women, and junior (age fifteen
All weigh-stations have been provided with a copy of the current
list of state-record holders. When applying for a new state record
your affidavit must be accompanied by a clear photograph of your
catch with your name, address and telephone number on the back.
For more information contact Drew Kolek at (508) 888-1155.
Dedicates Vineyard Beach
Sportfisheries Program will host a public dedication ceremony on August
24 to celebrate DMF's acquisition of the so-called "Leland Beach"
property on Martha's Vineyard. The property was acquired in 1993 for
the primary purpose of preserving fishing access to the legendary
surf-fishing waters of Wasque point. It encompasses over 100 acres
and one half mile of prime beach-front on Chappaquiddick Island, and
will aptly be named Chappaquiddick State Beach. We are planning for
Governor Weld to take part in this ceremony. A Press Release announcing
exact time and site will be forthcoming.
Artwork Features Seven Popular Species
Sportfisheries Program commissioned renowned nature artist, John Rice,
to create an ink and water color rendition of seven popular species.
His work has been featured on covers of national sportfishing publications
including Saltwater Sportsman. Rice produced a stunning work, entitled
"Massachusetts Sportfisheries." This artwork will be featured in several
of the Program's promotional materials during the coming year. Saltwater
Fishing Derby Division winners will be awarded signed limited edition
prints, and the artwork will be incorporated into a full-size poster
promoting the Derby.
Sportfishing Guide Available
Sportfishing Program has produced a new version of its popular "Massachusetts
Saltwater Sportfishing Guide." With more than 1,900 miles of coastline,
the state offers some of the finest saltwater fishing in the country.
The diversity of marine habitats supports a fascinating and exciting
array of species. Long famous for record-sized striped bass and giant
bluefin tuna, the waters of the Commonwealth contain a variety of
other highly prized fishes including flounder, cod, bluefish, tautog
and scup. Countless tide rips, beaches, embayments, bridges and jetties
provide unlimited fishing opportunities for boat and shore-based anglers.
Launching sites, tackle shops and charter and party boats are available
along Massachusetts' entire coastline to accommodate the resident
and visiting fisherman. This booklet is a guide to these activities.
We've arranged the guide geographically. You'll find information
listed from Salisbury (at the 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. Write or call Noreen Whitaker at DMF's Boston office,
617-727-3193 ext. 371.
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Kick-Off a Huge Success!
Making a Splash! Campaign, promoting the good taste
and good value of fresh, locally-caught fish (Cape Shark, Mackerel,
Red Hake, Whiting and Herring) kicked off at the Boston Harbor Hotel
on June 25th with an elegant seafood tasting event. Some of Boston's
top chefs, as well as Sefatia Romeo of the Gloucester Fishermen's
Wives Association and Paul Amaral of the Culinary Arts Program at
the Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School
served up their tasty and original creations of the five fish to invited
guests. Some favorites were Herring Stuffed Mushrooms, Baked Red Hake
stuffed with Goat Cheese, a traditional Portuguese seafood salad featuring
Cape Shark, and Balsamic and Basil Glazed Atlantic Mackerel. There
was a great turnout, including Lt. Governor Paul Cellucci, Environmental
Affairs Secretary Trudy Coxe, Senator Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, fishing
industry VIP's and the media. The Associated Press attended and ran
a story over the wire that was picked up by newspapers across the
For Upcoming Media Coverage!
Campaign has received some great coverage _ and we expect more! We
hope you've seen and heard the stories on the Campaign and the five
fish on Chronicle (Ch. 5), WBUR Radio (Morning Edition), the Boston
Herald, Gloucester Times, New Bedford Standard Times, Cape Cod Times,
and more! Watch for more stories coming in your local papers and
radio. And, look for these scheduled stories in August and September:
Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Patriot Ledger, TV Food Network
(a national 24-hour network on cable TV) and even ABC Nightly News
(the American Agenda). ABC Nightly News will primarily feature
the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association and will highlight their
in-store demo program for herring being coordinated by the Making
a Splash! Campaign.
In-Store Demos Are a Hit at Local Supermarkets!
Gloucester Fishermen's Wives have been providing Bread & Circus shoppers
with samplings of delicious herring recipes at weekly in-store demos
across the state. They have received rave reviews... consumers love
the Herring Parmesan. Captain Marden's Fish Market in Wellesley will
also host in-store demos in August. The Gloucester Fishermen's Wives
are available now through October. If you know of a fish market or
supermarket who would be interested in having free in-store demos,
call us at (617) 268-1380. The Gloucester Fishermen's Wives
will travel anywhere in the state and provide all food and staffing
for the in-store demo at no cost to the host store.
Phantom Gourmet Seafood Video is available by calling 1-800-298-1566.
Watch top Boston chefs prepare original seafood dishes that you
can cook at home. For $19.95 you will receive the video, 3 x 5 recipe
cards of the dishes and a list of Campaign Partner Restaurants,
Supermarkets and Fish Markets. If you are bored with the same old
seafood, this video is for you!
Making a Splash! Campaign, sponsored by the Massachusetts
Governor's Seafood Task Force, is a "buy local/buy fresh" seafood
campaign designed to help the beleaguered fishing industry create
new consumer markets locally for under-appreciated, "undiscovered"
Massachusetts fish, abundant in local waters.
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Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) and Atlantic States
Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) continue to use commercial quotas
as a way to control fishing mortality and rebuild overfished stocks
of fish along the coast. Since 1993, summer flounder (fluke) has been
managed by quotas, and the perceived success of this strategy has
convinced the Council and ASMFC to apply a similar strategy to scup
and black sea bass. For Loligo squid the Council in a recent
federal management plan amendment included a seasonal quota strategy
to "insure that sufficient escapement from the winter offshore Loligo
fishery occurs to allow for traditional inshore fisheries and to provide
adequate spawning stock biomass." DMF has argued that this strategy
be developed before the winter offshore fishery begins this October.
The issue of "shares" is paramount, not only in the squid fishery
but in other fisheries as well. The question of how to preserve
historical shares of a fishery for each state (from Massachusetts
south to North Carolina) while attempting to rebuild stocks by cutting
fishing effort and mortality, is very elusive.
Difficult questions arise: What defines "historical?" What years
should be used in establishing shares based on states' past landings?
How accurate are the landings' records in each state - a critical
question for a state where all past commercial landings have not
been accounted for? If stocks are overfished, why should states
with higher past landings receive larger percent shares, when those
states' landings contributed to overfishing? If a state's landings
were less than other states' landings due to fisheries restrictions
in that state and not in others, why should the conservation-minded
state be penalized with a smaller quota share? How can quotas be
justified when the amounts of fish discarded and dead as by-catch
in non-directed fisheries equals or exceeds landings from directed
The Council and ASMFC are now trying to answer these questions for
the next species to be managed through quotas. The Scup Management
Plan, just adopted by the Council and ASMFC, soon will be implemented
by the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Plan calls for a quota
for 1997, to be divided between commercial and recreational fishermen.
Once divided, with a 70% commercial and 30% recreational uneven
split based on "historic" proportions, the commercial quota will
be applied coastwide.
While at first a seemingly sensible way to control scup fishing
mortality, the quota management approach applied to scup raises
serious questions about equity for Massachusetts' and other New
England states' fishermen. Specifically, commercial fishermen who
target scup might have to live by a quota that is far less than
the amount discarded in other fisheries, such as small-mesh otter
Furthering the commercial fishermen's plight is the Council's strategy
for 1997 that will reduce commercial quotas by deducting estimates
of discards. This action could reduce the proposed 13.13 million
lbs. coastwide commercial quota to just 5.64 million lbs. to account
for an expected 7.49 million lbs. of discards! Council logic is
that this strategy provides great incentive for scup fishermen to
reduce their discards since the commercial quota would rise with
This logic has a fatal flaw because each gear type has its own rate
of discards and survival rate for released scup. And most sea sampling
data available for scup discard rates has been gathered on small-mesh
trawlers, probably the worst offenders for discards. But in Massachusetts'
inshore fishery, trawlers' contribution to scup landings has declined.
In our fishery, scup are caught primarily by weirs, pots, and handlines,
with trawlers waning in importance since DMF implemented night closures
to trawling (1992), a reduced vessel size limit (1995), and large
mesh for scup trawlers (4 1/2") to maximize escapement (1992). Weir,
pot, and hook and line fisheries have very little, if any discard
mortality. Their catches of small and sublegal fish are usually
released alive. Even trawlermen who target scup will be frustrated
if they decide to increase their net mesh size to reduce discards
but find their conservation efforts cancelled out by discards elsewhere.
These issues and questions were raised with NMFS Regional Director,
Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, in July 15 DMF comments on proposed NMFS regulations
implementing the Scup Plan. The Council and ASMFC already recognize
that their quota for 1997 will be taken rather soon in 1997, perhaps
by April, unless trip limits are adopted or some other type of quota
management approach is substituted for the region-wide quota concept.
DMF has asked NMFS to postpone implementation of the quota until
ASMFC can develop a better alternative. Those discussions are ongoing.
By our next newsletter due out in November, we should know what's
ahead for scup commercial fishermen.
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many years of dragging around the State House, a bill restricting
the landing of lobsters by vessels "taken by any method other than
pots or traps" was signed into law by Governor Weld on August 2, 1996.
Effective November 2, 1996, these vessels may land in Commonwealth
ports no more than 100 lobsters in a 24 hour period with a maximum
of 500 lobsters within a period of 7 consecutive days. This law focuses
on trawlers landing lobsters from federal waters and does not alter
the current state law which prohibits dragging (trawling) for lobsters
in state waters.
This law (Chapter 218 of the Acts of 1996) represents a compromise
between the desires of the lobster pot fishermen - specifically,
the Mass. Lobstermen's Association - who sought a complete ban on
trawlers landing lobsters, and the trawlermen who have traditionally
landed legally-caught lobster bycatch taken in federal waters. When
originally proposed, this bill would have enacted a Maine-like ban
on trawlers landing lobsters. Opponents argued that such a blanket
prohibition would have driven trawlermen to land their catch (fish
and lobster) in other states. They cited examples of Maine trawlers
that land lobsters and fish in Massachusetts ports. Also, constitutional
concerns were raised when the bill called for a blanket prohibition
on the landing of lobsters taken from federal waters where trawling
is not prohibited.
Over the past several months, the lobster pot fishermen, trawlermen,
legislators, and DMF staff have met to reach a compromise, resulting
in the statute. DMF is required to draft regulations to implement
the law within 90 days after enactment.
Although historically opposed to complete prohibitions on the landing
of trawl-caught lobsters, DMF supported the bill given concerns
that increased lobster catches would inevitably result. Trawlermen
are expected to target species not protected by the recently approved
federal groundfish regulations. This law is designed to prevent
trawlers from directingtheir trips on lobsters, by limiting
the taking of lobsters by non-trap fishermen to a reasonable bycatch
that can be taken while fishing for other species.
Trawlers generally catch a suite of species; many are marketable
such as traditional groundfish species and lobster, but many are
not, such as low valued, undersized, or prohibited species. And
to the vast majority of trawlers, lobsters represent an incidental
part of their catch. Sea sampling data from federal and state Fisheries Dependent Investigationss conducted over five years (1989-1993) reveal that on most
trips lobster catch was quite low. Lobster catch was less than 150
lbs. (kept) per day on over 95% of observed trips. On half the trips,
lobster catch was less than 15 lbs!
Sometimes catch rates can be much higher when trawlers fish in areas
and times when lobsters are concentrated. Consider three examples
where directed fisheries occur or bycatch of lobsters is more
of Nantucket, offshore migrant lobsters are abundant along Nantucket
Shoals during summer/fall.
deep waters of Mass. Bay and Cape Cod Bay in autumn, new-shell
lobsters begin migrating offshore in response to dropping nearshore
late winter and early spring, mature lobsters (especially egg-bearing
females) concentrate along the continental shelf edge, particularly
along the canyons off Southern New England.
Trips in excess of 1000 pounds are common when trawlers fish during
these times and places.
Are these fisheries problematic? Quite possibly. Any fishery that
targets vulnerable concentrations of lobster or any species could
have deleterious effects. Trawler peak catches have been observed
during periods when lobsters molt and are in soft- or new-shell
condition, and may be damaged or killed. Federal statistics show
trawlers' catch rates are highest during the peak season of lobster
shedding (July through October).
But the more controversial development in lobster trawling has been
the expansion of the winter/spring offshore fishery along the continental
shelf edge. Any fishery that targets mature female lobster could
prove to be the knockout punch for the overfished lobster resource.
It should be noted that a few trawlers have been fishing for lobsters
offshore for decades, but it's the expansion and the extraordinary
high proportion of females in the landings that concerns DMF.
How large are trawlers' lobster landings? For 1995, trawlers (and
gillnetters) reported landing 912,000 lbs. in Massachusetts ports,
and these lobsters were presumably caught in federal waters since
state law prohibits lobster harvest by "spearing, dipping, or dragging"
in state waters. These 912,000 lbs. account for 5.7% of total lobster
landings in Massachusetts ports. This percentage is similar to regional
estimates. Federal landings statistics show non-trap landings accounted
for 2.5% of the total reported lobster landings during the past
10 years which includes Maine landings where trawler-caught lobsters
are prohibited. Less the Maine landings, the remaining US trawl
caught percentage is more reflective of the Massachusetts trawler/total
How many Massachusetts trawlers have significant landings? A very
small minority. Consider the following table describing 1993 landings:
Range (lbs.) # Vessels (pct)
0-999 177 (43%)
1,000-4,999 178 (43%)
5,000-9,999 041 (10%)
10,000-14,999 010 ( 2%)
15,000-24,999 005 ( 1%)
25,000-39,999 003 (lt1%)
These data are derived from fishermen's catch reports signed under
the pains of perjury, and as you can see, the overwhelming majority
catch less than 5,000 lbs. per year. Lobsters clearly do not constitute
a full-time directed fishery, but a component of a saleable bycatch
The issue of taking and landing lobsters by trawlers has been hotly
debated in federal circles for years. Currently, the Atlantic States
Marine Fisheries Commission is drafting a management plan for the
lobster fishery. This new law signed by the Governor would allow
the federal plan to supersede the landing limits imposed in this
bill once the plan is implemented. However, the developing Atlantic
States Marine Fisheries Commission lobster management plan amendment
likely will not eliminate lobster trawl bycatch. There are too many
states with lobster trawl landings that will want to continue this
activity. However, it is likely that the plan will contain restrictions
on bycatch and address any directed fishery expansion.
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new method for the illegal removal of lobster eggs has fisheries managers
in an uproar. This method has offered another challenge to state biologists
at DMF's Lobster Hatchery and Research Station. This state facility
- the oldest operating lobster hatchery in the world - since 1949
has liberated millions of small lobsters into coastal waters and has
conducted many experiments involving lobster genetics, growth rates,
artificial diets, behavior, hybridization, and polyculture.
It is illegal to remove eggs from lobster swimmerets, yet some especially
shortsighted and foolish fishermen catching lobsters continue to
"scrub" females. Previously, egg masses were removed by a stiff
deck brush or high-pressure water hose, but this method was easily
detected by trained law enforcement officers looking for residual
cement attached to swimmeret hairs. Although it's easy to remove
eggs, it's impossible to remove all of the cement. DMF's Hatchery
and Research Station biologists teach detection methods to local,
state, and federal law enforcement officials. Now the Hatchery has
had to take on a new research task created by the practice of dipping
eggers' tails in a solution of bleach and seawater. This dipping
causes cement to dissolve and confounds law enforcement. A one-minute
dip removes the entire egg mass; lobsters appear to be completely
clean and legal.
Working with Dr. Robert Bullis of the Laboratory for Marine Animal
Health at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, DMF has
developed a detection kit enabling law enforcement officers to quickly
determine on a boat or at the dock whether lobsters have been dipped.
An officer only needs to cut off a swimmeret and place it in a vial
with 20 milliliters of deionized water and one gram of potassium
A dipped lobster's swimmeret will turn the clear solution yellow.
The vividness of the color is affected by the number of days after
dipping, and the degree of color change can be determined and recorded
as evidence with use of a spectrophotometer - an instrument used
to detect colors not visible to the naked eye.
With Environmental Police and Coast Guard Officers now using this
enforcement tool, we expect this shortsighted, illegal, and inexcusable
practice of dipping will be deterred. Protection of egg bearing
females is critical to the perpetuation of lobsters and scientists
recommend that the numbers of egg-bearing females in the population
needs to be increased to prevent potential stock collapse.
See related article.
This test was developed with support of DMF, the Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution Sea Grant Program, the University of Pennsylvania Research
Foundation, the National Fisheries Institute, and the Lobster Institute
Mike Syslo, Lobster Hatchery Chief
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Division's Statistics Project has released its annual publication
based on information taken from lobster catch reports. Massachusetts
lobstermen encountered near record landings and higher ex-vessel prices
for 1995. Commercial lobster landings in the Commonwealth were 15,949,000
pounds in 1995, down only 1.5% from 1994 but, still near the record-setting
year of 1990. Territorial waters off Massachusetts provided the bulk
of the harvest with landings of 10,023,000 pounds. Federal waters
outside the three-mile territorial sea produced 5,518,000 pounds.
Of these landings, 4,960,000 pounds were harvested from lobster traps,
while mobile gear vessels (trawlers) accounted for the remaining 912,000
Lobstermen received a statewide average price per pound of $3.12
in 1995 which signaled a substantial 7% increase over last year.
This price was the principal driving force behind the record setting
$49.8 million value for 1995 landings. Statewide price and value
data were taken from the nearly completed random selection and audit
of active lobstermen. Approximately 15% of active lobstermen were
required to submit their dealer receipts, personal logs, and tax
information to corroborate and substantiate information submitted
on their catch reports. The audit calculates and processes thousands
of dealer transactions, and it is the primary means for tracking
daily and annual prices of lobster landed in the Commonwealth.
For more information, contact DMF's Statistics Project, Cat Cove
Marine Laboratory, 92 Fort Avenue, Salem, MA 01970 or call Jon Pava
at 508-745-3113 Ext 104.
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independent panel of experts has examined lobster population dynamics
and assessment techniques and supported scientists' claims that lobster
stocks are overfished. All three of the established stock units for
American lobster were examined - Gulf of Maine, Southern Cape Cod
to Long Island Sound, and Georges Bank-Offshore The Gulf of Maine
and Southern Cape Cod-Long Island stocks are well in excess
of the overfishing level, and the Georges Bank-offshore stock is considered
approaching the overfished level.
The 5-member panel of experts, chosen from around the U.S. as well
as Canada and the United Kingdom, held a 5-day workshop in Rhode
Island in March. They reviewed technical analyses from state and
federal lobster scientists and testimony from industry representatives.
Despite scientists' warnings about overfishing, lobster landings
have increased over the past few decades to record levels. This
contradiction prompted many in the industry and some scientists
to doubt the validity of the overfishing claims. So the National
Marine Fisheries Service convened the panel to critique the assessment.
Undoubtedly, some in the industry had hoped a fresh look at the
stock assessment would halt plans for new restrictions to reduce
fishing. There is such a precedent. In 1994 scheduled bluefin tuna
quota reductions were dropped after a National Academy of Sciences
Peer Review Panel challenged assessment techniques and conclusions
regarding a decline in bluefin tuna stocks.
However, the panel agreed with the current assessment that stocks
are overfished. The panel saw evidence of "growth" overfishing,
where lobsters are being caught at sizes too small to capitalize
on potential growth. But even more important, the panel supported
the current overfishing definition and a need for a minimum amount
of reproductive females in the population to prevent stock collapse.
The standard of F 10% - where the level of egg production should
be at least 10% of that of an unfished population - was supported
by the panel. The panel cited other crustacean fisheries where collapses
occurred without warning: Newfoundland lobster and Bristol Bay red
crab. The Bristol Bay crab collapsed suddenly within just two years
after 15 years of increasing landings. Juvenile and adolescent lobster
are notoriously difficult to monitor so scientists fear that given
the 5-7 year lag between larvae and adults at harvestable size,
recruitment failures will be sudden and will devastate the industry.
The panel noted that current egg production is dependent on very
small lobsters inshore and large lobsters offshore. The panel suspected
large lobsters offshore are providing a "reproductive subsidy" for
inshore areas, and they warned against increased fishing offshore.
The panel concluded that increases in lobster catch since the 1970's
have been attributable to increases in fishing effort: more fishermen,
more traps, efficient traps, and electronic advancements all have
allowed fishermen to fish more intensely and farther from shore
to less exploited areas. But they also found evidence of increased
lobster abundance (recruitment) since the mid-1980's that contributed
to record catches.
The panel noted the absence of a strong relationship between fishing
mortality and fishing effort at this time. This could be problematic
for fishery managers since future reductions in fishing mortality
will likely be accomplished through restrictions affecting fishermen's
fishing effort (e.g. maximum number of traps or closed seasons).
They suggested that the first practical step would be to establish
a fishing effort ceiling: a conservative trap limit per vessel,
not a liberal limit so far above the mean number of traps fished
to allow a subsequent increase in effort.
A number of research recommendations were suggested by the Review
Panel and were detailed in its report. Limited copies of the report
are available. For more details, contact DMF.
Dan McKiernan with contributions from DMF Lobster Biologist Bruce
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Senior Biologist David Pierce received a Doctor of Philosophy degree
from the University of Massachusetts at Boston this past June. David
pursued his Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences on a part-time basis for
13 years while working full-time for DMF. He successfully defended
his dissertation entitled: Policy and Guidance for Seafood Safety
Risks Posed by Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Related Organochlorines.
David, co-editor of the NEWS, is a longtime DMF fisheries biologist
serving as the Director's designee or as the agency's appointed representative
at fishery management council and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries
Commission (ASMFC) meetings.
David critiqued human health PCB effects cited in the first Massachusetts
PCB public health advisory in 1977, neonatal (fetus and newborn)
effects assessed throughout the 1980s, and non-cancer effects suggested
and highlighted in the 1990s. He detailed DMF's history of involvement
with PCB contamination of seafood, and he concluded that if DMF
only reacts to seafood contamination events as they unfold, the
agency will minimize its usefulness in ensuring that Massachusetts'
seafood reputation as a safe and wholesome food is maintained. DMF
will isolate itself from those agencies and organizations subscribing
to the belief that seafood with PCBs and related organochlorines
poses unacceptable heath risks. David identified hindrances and
impetuses for DMF assuming a new and increased role.
The major conclusion of his dissertation was that this increased
involvement should entail developing policies to serve as a basis
for guidance for seafood consumers and other target audiences especially
ASMFC _ the forum for cooperative interstate fisheries management,
research, and education. He recommended a set of policies and provided
two guidance documents. A long version, with a question and answer
format in a conversational style, has an intended audience of other
state fisheries management agencies and ASMFC. The audience includes
the media and those willing to delve a little deeper into the issues.
Another version is tailored for those seeking a shorter, more concise
David emphasized that his suggested policies and guidance should
not be construed as official DMF policy and guidance or that DMF
agrees with his views. His ideas were offered as a way to renew
discussion within DMF and ASMFC.
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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
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.
Publication #17020-12-7000 8/96-$2250
Division of Marine Fisheries
100 Cambridge Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02202
Hearings / Regulations / Legislation
Volume 6 Number 3
of Contents for Rules Update....
of Public Hearings
Regulatory Update: including Flounder,
Striped Bass, Lobster, and Fluke
of Public Hearings Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Commission
Public Hearings Scheduled for August 26 and 27, 1996
Under the provisions of G.L. c 30A and pursuant to the authority
found in G.L. c 130, ss. 2, 17A, 80, 100A, and 104, the Marine Fisheries
Commission has scheduled two hearings to discuss the following:
1) DMF proposal to amend sea herring spawning closure regulations
(322 CMR 9.00) to allow herring caught in waters outside the Gulf
of Maine (e.g. from Georges Bank or Southern New England) to be
landed in Massachusetts during the three week October spawning closure.
The current sea herring spawning closure dates back to 1983 when
DMF enacted the closure in concert with Maine and New Hampshire
to protect spawning herring in the Gulf of Maine.
2) DMF proposal to amend Coastal Access Permits regulations
(322 CMR 7.05) to allow old vessels to obtain Coastal Access Permits
to fish mobile gear in state waters. DMF proposes to allow access
to state waters to vessels at least 50 years old that held a Coastal
Access Permit in 1994 and can provide evidence of fishing in state
waters during 1989-1992. Some of the oldest vessels in the fleet
were excluded from state waters by the 72 ft. maximum vessel length
regulation enacted in 1995. By virtue of their age these vessels
typically have lower fishing power than other newer vessels of similar
length. DMF further proposes that permits issued these vessels could
be transferred once the vessel is no longer in service only to a
smaller vessel that meets the length and other performance requirements
in place at the time of transfer.
3) DMF proposal to complement recent federal regulations by restricting
commercial fishing in state waters north of Marblehead, 42ø 30'.
The first proposal would prohibit all commercial fishing for
regulated groundfish species during November 1 - December 31. This
closure complements the recently enacted "Midcoast Area Closure"
of Amendment #7 of the federal groundfish plan. The second proposal
would mandate that during Sept 15 - October 31 any sink gillnet
set in the area must have acoustic alarms, known as "pingers", attached
to the net. This action complements federal action to reduce harbor
4) DMF seeks comments on a recent emergency action that amended
striped bass commercial regulations. The 1996 season was opened
on July 1 with the same quota as last year of 750,000 lbs. The action
also created a mechanism whereby any previous year's overage will
be deducted from the following year's quota. Consequently the 1996
commercial quota will be just 718,000 lbs., a reduction of 32,000
lbs. to account for last year's overage.
hearings have been scheduled:
August 26, 1996 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mass. Maritime Academy Auditorium
in Buzzards Bay and
August 27 at 7:00 p.m. in the Friend Room in the Sawyer Public
Library in Gloucester.
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the period June - August the following decisions were made by DMF
and the Marine Fisheries Commission.
bass gamefish petition rejected. The 1996 commercial season
was opened on July 1 and the Director used his emergency authority
to enact rules to deduct poundage from this year's quota to compensate
last year's overage. Consequently, this year's commercial quota
will be just 718,000 lbs., down from 750,000 lbs. to account for
last year's 32,000 lb. overage. See article by Dan McKiernan in
DMF News. The quota is expected to be filled around Labor Day. As
in past years, commercial fishermen will be prohibited from selling
bass once the quota is reached and wholesale and retail dealers
will be allowed 5 days to liquidate their inventories. Permission
may be granted to dealers who seek to freeze and maintain inventory
beyond the 5-day deadline but this product may only be destined
for shipment out of state, not sold in Massachusetts. Additional
rules apply regarding record keeping. Contact DMF for details. After
the closure, wholesale and retail dealers may not sell striped bass
again in Massachusetts until December 1 when only bass legally-caught
out-of-state and properly tagged may be sold in Massachusetts.
Hope Bay winter flounder regulations amended to complement those
recently adopted by Rhode Island Division of Fish & Wildlife for
recreational fishing in Narragansett Bay. DMF proposes to increase
the possession limit to four fish per person (per day) during the
period April 13-May 19 and September 28-October 28. During the remainder
of the year, flounder harvest will still be prohibited. Furthermore,
no commercial harvest will be allowed during any time of the year
in this area. Rhode Island allows a limited quota managed commercial
fishery in Narragansett Bay, but no complementary program was considered
in Mt. Hope Bay.
and haddock rules changed for recreational fishermen to complement
recent federal regulations changes. Minimum size for these species
for recreational anglers increased from 19" to 20" in 1996, and
to 21" in 1997. Also for recreational fishermen fishing from shore
or on private vessels, a ten-fish combined bag limit was established.
regulations amended to prohibit the possession of lobsters treated
with certain chemical solutions that may result in the removal of
eggs. This rule clarified state law (M.G.L. Chapter 130 sec. 41)
that prohibits the possession of "female lobsters from which eggs
have been removed other than natural hatching". See DMF News article
by DMF's Mike Syslo, Lobster Hatchery Chief.
action was taken on surf clam management proposals received
from eleven coastal towns. DMF intends to study the proposals and
make formal recommendations this fall to the Commission. Expect
final proposed regulations to be drafted by DMF and then aired at
November public hearings.
Mass. summer flounder (fluke) commercial quota reached on August
9 . As of August 10, Commercial fishing and landing of summer
flounder is prohibited through the end of the year.
This summer fluke season did not meet fishermen's expectations,
as they were squeezed by a shorter season and reduced fish prices.
After the federal quota was reduced by 25% among all states Massachusetts
anuual quota was reduced from about 1 million lbs. to 750,000 lbs.
The one-week winter opening resulted in about 180,000 lbs. landed.
When the summer fishery was opened, about 550,000 lbs. remained
on the annual quota. Even with this year's trip limits the same
as last year's (300 lbs./day), the season was shortened considerably
due to increased effort and participitation. During this 8-week
summer season (June 17 - August 9), statewide weekly landings averaged
65,000 lbs. up from 50,000 last year. Last year's summer fishery
season lasted 14 weeks (June 1 - September 9). Fishermen were disappointed
by unexpectedly low dockside prices. According to many dealers,
fluke export markets were very weak this summer and prices fell
to about half of those seen last year.
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Dragging" bill signed by Governor Weld on August 2, 1996. See
DMF News article for a detailed account. The bill limits lobster landings
for commercial vessels using methods "other than pots or traps." Also
the bill increases criminal penalties for violating lobster minimum
size law (ch. 130 s44). Formerly the fines for a first offense was
punishable by a fine of $25 to $50 for first offense and $50 to $100
for subsequent offenses. The new penalties established by the law
will be $100 to $500 for first offense and $500 to $1000 for subsequent
Also the bill directs DMF to promulgate regulations in the future
if lobster landings by non-trap fishermen exceed 6% of the state's
total commercial lobster landings. Finally, the law directs DMF
to investigate the and recommend to the Legislature the feasibility
of instituting a maximum lobster size. Note: Maine currently bans
the landing or possession of lobsters larger than 5" carapace length,
as a means to increase spawning stock.
This bill was sponsored by Senator Robert Durand (D-Marlborough)
and Representative Steven Angelo (D-Saugus), Additional legislators
who developed this compromise include: House Natural Resources Chairwoman
Barbara Gray (D-Framingham), Senators Robert Antonioni (D-Leominster),
Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Representatives
George Peterson (R-Grafton), John Quinn (D-Dartmouth), Bill Straus
(D-Freetown), Tony Cabral (D-New Bedford), Joe McIntyre (D-New Bedford)
and Tony Verga (D-Gloucester).
to Senator Robert Durand (D-Marlborough) who accompanied the
Governor on the shore of the Charles River for the signing of the
Rivers Protection Act into law on August 8, 1996 after
7 years of championing the bill. The law amends the existing Wetlands
Protection Act and will prohibit new development within 200 feet
of a river unless the applicant can demonstrate that there will
be no significant adverse impact on the riverfront and that there
is no practicable alternative and substantially equivalent economic
alternative with less adverse effects. After signing the bill, Governor
Weld and Senator Durand swam a victory lap in the Charles River
as onlookers basked in the 90-degree heat. Natural Resources Chairwomen
Lois Pines (D-Newton) and Barbara Gray (D-Framingham) along with
Representatives David Cohen (D-Newton), Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington),
Pam Resor (D-Acton) and Doug Petersen (D-Marblehead) were instrumental
in getting the bill through.
Mike Cahill's (D-Beverly) bill was enacted that amends the closed
season for edible crabs from December - March to January - April.
This change will allow lobstermen to fish later into the season
by opening the month of December for the taking of edible crabs.
Rep. Eric Turkington's (D-Falmouth) bill was enacted that
expanded the definition of "shellfish" to include "quarterdeck limpets"
so the taking of these gastropod mollusks can be regulated by local
communities consistent with other shellfish. DMF supported the bill.
Contact Priscilla Geigis for details at (617) 727-3193 xt 388.
to Table of Contents for Rules Update
Return to Table of Contents
is published quarterly to publicize regulatory matters affecting marine
Director: Philip G. Coates, DMF
Commissioner: John C. Phillips, DFWELE
Secretary: Trudy Coxe, EOEA
Governor: William F. Weld
Editor: Daniel J. McKiernan, DMF / Art Dir.: David G. Gabriel, DFWELE
Date Originally Posted: September 9, 1996
Date Last Update: September 9, 1996