DMF NEWS is published quarterly by
the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to inform and educate
its constituents on matters relating to the conservation and sustainable
use of the Commonwealth's marine resources
Volume 16 Fourth Quarter October
- December 1996
Court Orders Additional
Right Whale Protection Measures
Tracking the Bluefin Tuna: Scientistists Team up
Great White Shark Landed in Beverly
New Whiting Net Breathes Life into Provincetown
Massachusetts hosts ASMFC Annual Meeting
European Oysters on the North Shore
Comings and Goings at DMF
Rules Update, includes Public
Hearing notices and Regulatory & Legislative Updates
On September 24, 1996 Judge Douglas Woodlock of
the Federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts issued
a preliminary injunction in the case Strahan v. Coxe, et al. The injunction
ordered the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) to: (1) apply to the
National Marine Fisheries Service for an incidental take permit under
the Endangered Species Act and a small take authorization under the
Marine Mammal Protection Act for the northern right whale in Massachusetts
waters; (2) develop a proposal to be submitted to the Court by December
16, 1996 to "restrict, modify or eliminate" the use of fixed fishing
gear in coastal waters of Massachusetts listed as critical habitat
for Northern Right Whales; and (3) convene an "Endangered Whale Working
Group" to engage in substantive discussions with the Plaintiff, or
his representative, as well as other interested parties, regarding
modifications of fixed fishing gear and other measures to minimize
actual harm to Northern Right whales."
The Court based the injunction
on its finding that "the permitting of fixed fishing gear by the
Defendants [DMF] results in a harmful taking of endangered whales
through the modification of their habitat." The Court found this
to be a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.
The Attorney General's Office
has appealed the decision but meanwhile DMF has complied with the
Judge's order and applied to the National Marine Fisheries Service
for the ordered permits and authorizations. Also the Court-approved
Working Group has already convened. This team was able to "hit the
ground running" on November 5 since 7 of the 10 members are already
involved with other concurrent efforts to protect right whales,
notably the Large Whale Take Reduction Team established by NMFS
in September, 1996.
Judge Woodlock ordered this group
to convene as quickly as possible to draft the proposals that would
affect lobster pot fishing and gillnetting. Judge Woodlock approved
the membership of the group which includes:
Daniel McKiernan* _ DMF Fisheries
Dr. Charles "Stormy" Mayo* _ Researcher, Center for Coastal Studies
Dr. Scott Kraus* _ Researcher, N. E. Aquarium
Dr. Eleanor Dorsey* _ Conservation Law Foundation
William Adler* _ Mass. Lobstermen's Assoc.
Bob MacKinnon* _ Mass. Gillnetters Assoc.
Sharon Young* _ U.S. Humane Society
Dr. Tom French _ Director of the Mass. Natural Heritage Program
James McCaffrey _ Sierra Club
Dr. Les Kaufman _ Boston University
and/or Robert Stevenson _ U. Mass., Boston
* Denotes member of the Large Whale Take Reduction Team
Specific recommendations to minimize
entanglements, if finalized by the Working Group in time, will be
presented at the scheduled December 2 and 3 Marine Fisheries Commission
public hearings. The Group has focused on possible area/time closures,
"breakaway" fishing gear, and the development of a cooperative surveillance
program to notify researchers. Director Phil Coates and the Massachusetts
Marine Fisheries Commission plan to enact rules in time for the
February 1997 expected arrival of right whales in Cape Cod Bay.
See Rules Update. For more information contact Dan McKiernan at
DMF's Boston Office.
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In September and October, DMF biologists Brad
Chase and Greg Skomal participated in successful tagging and ultrasonic
tracking of bluefin tuna in the Gulf of Maine. The project was a unique
and exciting collaboration of Massachusetts fishermen and scientists
from the New England Aquarium, University of Hawaii, and DMF. Funding
was provided by the National Geographic Society and the National Marine
Hydro-acoustic transmitters were
applied to free-swimming bluefin using a harpoon tagging method.
Tagged bluefin were followed for up to 48 hours on a vessel equipped
with a signal receiving hydrophone that allowed determination of
tuna depth and position.
The tracking project will provide
valuable information about the following: movements and daily behavior
of bluefin on New England grounds relative to conditions, behavior
that can be related to the findings of the ongoing New England Aquarium
areal survey, and "normal" behavior of free-swimming tuna for comparison
to post-release behavior of bluefin stressed by rod-and-reel capture.
The cornerstone of this project
was expertise provided by cooperating commercial fishermen. Spotter
plane pilot John Betzner located schools of tuna from the air and
directed Captain Bill Chaprales to fish where he applied tags with
a modified harpoon pole. Captain Jeff Tutein operated a second vessel
that followed tagged tuna.
Captain Chaprales developed the
harpoon attachment method during 1995 while working east of Chatham
with Chase and Skomal. At that time, one bluefin was tracked after
being tagged with the harpoon method ("stress-free track"), and
one was tracked after rod and reel capture ("stress track"). The
success of this venture carried over into this 1996 collaborative
effort with a partnership of the above crew and Molly Lutcavage
and Jennifer Goldstein of the Aquarium, and Rich Brill of the University
Five bluefin were tracked in
1996: three in the vicinity of Stellwagen Bank and two east of Chatham.
Extensive movements were documented (up to 65 nautical miles within
30 hours). There were dramatic dives to the bottom and distinct
day/night patterns. Data are being analyzed, and a report will be
available in 1997.
These tracks will contribute
greatly to ongoing DMF study on stress physiology and post-release
survivorship of large pelagics. To date, DMF has participated in
6 "stress-free tracks" and 3 "stress tracks" of bluefin tuna. More
of the latter will be conducted in 1997 off Hatteras, North Carolina
and Massachusetts. Giant bluefin tuna don't readily surrender their
secrets, but the tracking project provides scientists with a glimpse
of the daily habits of one of the ocean's top predators. This project
is also an example of the fishing industry and scientists working
together to come up with results that exceed the capabilities of
one component working alone. We hope to see more of this teamwork,
especially in this fishery where locking horns has been typical
For more information contact
Brad Chase and Greg Skomal
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In a summer that had its share of unusual weather
and fishing, the catch that perhaps made the biggest splash was the
18 foot Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) that was
brought into Beverly Harbor on August 18th. It has been a strange
year for sharks off Massachusetts. This great white capped off a summer
that included catches of sand tiger sharks in both Salem Harbor and
Hingham Bay and a world record blue shark caught off Martha's Vineyard.
This remarkable shark was landed
by Richard and Michael Birarelli on the Jean B. after finding
it entangled in their dogfish gillnet about 10 miles outside of
Salem Sound. Presumably, it was caught accidentally and "drowned"
because it was unable to swim freely and respire. Biologists from
DMF's Cat Cove Marine Laboratory identified the shark based on its
pointed dorsal fin, mottled gray and white coloration, widely spaced
triangular teeth, and above all, large size. Landing a great white
of this size in the western North Atlantic is highly unusual.
Recognizing the opportunity to
collect valuable biological samples, the crew of the Jean B.
allowed DMF biologists to dissect the shark. The National Marine
Fisheries Service Apex Predator and DMF's Shark Research Programs
provided sampling instructions. Biological samples have been collected
from fewer than 10 adult white sharks in the western North Atlantic.
DMF's biologists disassembled
the huge shark in front of hundreds of onlookers. Camera crews and
journalists from many local TV networks and newspapers came by to
publicize this unusual event. Examination of the white shark's stomach
may have been the crowd's favorite. A 31 pound harbor porpoise,
remains of two dogfish, and a rock crab were in the stomach.
Based on fin and body measurements,
this 18 foot shark weighed at least 2,500 pounds and was probably
the largest female ever sampled in this region.This female's reproductive
organs were saved for NMFS shark biologists to determine maturity
and reproductive condition. This species is believed to mature at
16 feet. Age is difficult to determine in sharks, but preliminary
estimates for this species would place her at about 18 years old.
In addition to vertebrae used for age analyses, white and red muscle
were saved for genetic analysis; the heart was saved for anatomical
and parasite inspection.
White sharks probably visit the
Gulf of Maine each year making the trip to areas with an abundant
food source _ marine mammals. Nevertheless, landings in Massachusetts
Bay are extremely rare. For example, data from DMF's shark tournament
sampling program show that of 3,700 sharks reported since 1987,
not a single white shark has been captured by recreational tournament
To better understand the abundance
and ecology of sharks off Massachusetts, since 1987, DMF's Shark
Research Program has conducted field work and cooperative research
with other agencies such as the NMFS Apex Predator Program. Also,
seminars on the ecology, exploitation, and ongoing studies of New
England sharks are routinely presented throughout the Commonwealth.
Commercial and recreational fishermen who encounter unusual sharks,
like the great white, are encouraged to contact DMF so we may learn
more about the biology of sharks in our waters.
This magnificent great white
provided unique biological data. Furthermore, the many children
who buzzed around E Dock that afternoon gained lasting memories.
The Birarellis and other fishermen of E Dock who helped out should
be credited with the type of cooperation that leads to better fisheries
by Brad Chase, Rusty Iwanowicz, and Greg
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The Sportfisheries Program is compiling the 1997
Massachusetts Saltwater Fishing Guide that describes where and how
you can enjoy fishing for a wide variety of fish along our shores.
The guide contains illustrations and descriptions of each species
including the recreational fishing regulations and state derby records.
We invite you to donate one or
more photos of your fishing experiences. These will be headers for
the Guide's sections listing access sites, bait & tackle shops,
and party/charter boats sections within the guide. There are also
the front and back cover photographs to consider.
Photos should be 4x6" or 5x7"
prints in black & white or color. Prints chosen for the Guide will
not be returned. However, you will be recognized with your name
printed alongside your photo. If interested, please send your photographs
Karen Rypka, Sportfisheries Program
Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries
100 Cambridge Street, 19th Floor, Boston, MA 02202
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When the 1995 groundfish conservation rules clamped
down on small-mesh trawl fisheries with high by-catch and discards,
the port of Provincetown took the biggest hit. Historically, Provincetown
has depended on catches of whiting, red hake, and dogfish: three species
still fairly abundant but caught with small-mesh nets. When analyses
showed these small-mesh species were caught with unacceptably high
levels of juvenile flounders (discarded dead), these fisheries off
Cape Cod were closed - an action coming as no surprise to DMF.
Since 1989, DMF's Conservation
Engineering Program has been busy designing a net that would fish
"clean" of troublesome bycatch. Since 1992, DMF sea samplers have
documented catch levels in these fisheries and have tried to convince
fishermen to reduce their bycatch through area closures and incremental
modifications to trawls. But with more liberal regulations in federal
waters, we could hardly get the attention of fishermen who traveled
north to those waters for "business as usual" fishing. This changed,
however, when the curtain fell in 1995. Federal regulations banned
all small-mesh trawling in areas where regulated species exceeded
5% of total catch. All small-mesh fisheries were considered "dirty"
unless proven "clean."
Last fall, Provincetown lost
its lucrative whiting fishery (see graph). In response, DMF biologists
sought a Provincetown fisherman to experiment with a "raised footrope
trawl," a net designed to catch whiting, hake, and dogfish while
passing over species that live close to or on the bottom such as
flounders and lobster. We found an able volunteer: Henry Souza,
captain and co-owner of the fishing vessel Charlotte G.,
a 44 year-old side trawler.
With a can-do attitude and a
DMF biologist on his vessel for every trip, Captain Souza experimented
with the net design during six trips last fall and over 20 trips
this past summer. We settled on a single design that succeeded catching
profitable amounts of whiting and hake with minimal bycatch _ well
below the mandated 5% level. In September, this "experimental fishery"
project was approved for additional vessels by the National Marine
Fisheries Service Regional Office in Gloucester and Washington.
Captain Souza and DMF gear expert
Arne Carr drew up trawl specifications, and each participating fisherman
rebuilt his trawl with Captain Souza's guidance. To obtain a permit,
each vessel was mandated to carry DMF observers to prove the net
performed properly, and then each was free to fish with occasional
A long list of restrictions were
attached to the permits, such as net specifications, catch reporting
rules, and areas allowed for fishing. But the most innovative rule
was the list of prohibited species. In addition to the 'regulated'
ten traditional groundfish species (e.g. flounders, cod, haddock,
and pollock), fishermen were prohibited from landing other species
that shouldn't be caught in the net with the net fishing as designed
- off the bottom. These included lobster (illegal to take in state
waters), crabs, monkfish, ocean pout, skate, sculpin, and sea raven.
Some of these species have no
market value. Nevertheless, we wanted to send a clear message about
fishing responsibly. These prohibited species have been documented
in catches when trawls fish "hard on the bottom," but have never
been prohibited in other whiting and hake fisheries.
The fishery has proved quite
successful with large catches of whiting and red hake reminding
many along MacMillan Wharf in Provincetown of the "good old days"
when whiting landings averaged over 1 million lbs. The fishery is
expected to wane in November when whiting and hake migrate offshore
in response to dropping water temperatures. DMF plans to work with
federal officials to re-establish these fisheries in Cape Cod Bay
and in other areas wherever by-catch problems can be resolved. A
complete report will be available at year's end.
by Dan McKiernan and Arne Carr
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The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission
55th annual meeting was held in Hyannis from October 20-24. The Commission,
formed by 15 states from Maine through Florida in 1942, assists the
management and conservation of shared coastal fishery resources and
works cooperatively with the federal government in five major policy
arenas: interstate fisheries management; research and statistics;
habitat conservation; sport fish restoration; and law enforcement.
Secretary of Environmental Affairs,
Trudy Coxe, welcomed the Commission to Massachusetts. After describing
her great interest and commitment to fisheries and their management,
she encouraged ASMFC to follow Massachusetts' lead on a number of
issues, especially three: (1) greater protection of the northern
right whale that migrates along the Atlantic coast from Florida
to the Bay of Fundy; (2) increased protection of female berried
lobsters by use of a recently developed, effective law enforcement
technique to detect scrubbing; and (3) further development of fishing
gear that reduces by-catch--gear such as that developed by DMF in
cooperation with Provincetown fishermen to allow seasonal fishing
for whiting in Cape Cod Bay.
Representative Gerry E. Studds
was presented with the ASMFC "Chairman's Award for Distinguished
Meritorious Service." ASMFC chairman Gordon C. Colvin of New York's
Department of Environmental Conservation stated:
"For 24 years, Representative
Gerry E. Studds has ably represented in Congress not only the Massachusetts
10th District but the interests of all citizens who value and care
for the Nation's valuable living marine resources. He has courageously
led the fight for effective conservation and management of marine
fishery resources, marine mammals and endangered species; all the
while protecting the cherished privileges of commercial and recreational
fishermen everywhere to pursue productive, satisfying and profitable
fishing. Mr. Studds has strongly supported the role of the states
in mutually cooperative partnership with the federal government.
His leadership on the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act, known
commonly as the "Studds Act," led to the recovery of a resource
cherished in his home New England area and all along the coast;
and set a standard for state and federal fishery conservation and
management efforts everywhere. He has always been sensitive to the
real needs of people in caring for their marine resources. ASMFC
gratefully acknowledges his spirit and commitment as an example
of outstanding leadership in Congress, and among all who recognize
the importance of the seas and their bounty."
Another award was given at this meeting. Philip
G. Coates, DMF's Director, was presented with the David H. Hart Award
given to individuals who have demonstrated a longstanding commitment
to the betterment of marine fisheries management. David Hart, from
New Jersey, was a well-respected, longtime ASMFC member and a chairman
of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
The fifth recipient of this award,
Phil was honored for his dedication to ASMFC and effective interstate
fisheries management. He has served as chairman of ASMFC and has
been chairman of the ASMFC Striped Management Board. His award (shown
in the photo) was certainly appropriate because Phil has played
a major role in the full restoration of striped bass along the Atlantic
coast. With his family present, Phil accepted the award, thanked
ASMFC and DMF staff for all their support, and reminded everyone
of the challenges to come. Congratulations Phil!
by David Pierce
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The European Oyster, Ostrea edulis, has
joined the ranks of abundant shellfish species in Salem Sound on the
North Shore of Massachusetts. In fact, the oyster population in Salem
Sound has become so large that the public has become aware of the
resource and is harvesting it. As a consequence, interesting questions
have been raised for DMF's fisheries managers and shellfish biologists.
What is the oyster's origin and why have they become so successful?
Is the population harmful or beneficial? Is there the potential for
a new fishery? What are the public health and law enforcement issues?
The oyster population has increased
dramatically throughout the Salem Sound area in Salem, Marblehead,
Beverly, and Manchester. It is now well established. The biomass
now present in Salem Sound is astounding, and the hardy bivalve
is starting to look like a permanent resident. DMF biologists first
noticed Ostrea in Salem Harbor in 1987 and found these oysters
at the Cat Cove Marine Laboratory in 1988. Raymond Bates, a local
scuba expert, has observed this non-indigenous species in other
areas of Salem Harbor since the late 1980's as well.
Isolated individuals or small
populations also have been recently located to the north in Gloucester,
Essex and Ipswich. DMF biologists found European oyster shells in
Quincy Bay in 1996, but little evidence of live oysters has been
found in Quincy or elsewhere in Boston Harbor and Broad Sound. It
also has been found in various locations on Cape Cod in the last
two years and from Duxbury Bay the past three years.
The European oyster is native
to waters of the Atlantic coast between Spain and Norway and is
considered a delicacy in Europe where it supports a major fishery.
Unlike the native American oyster, Crassostrea virginica,
which prefers warmer, low salinity water in estuaries, the European
oyster inhabits cooler, high salinity water. The North Shore environment,
therefore, appears to be an ideal oyster habitat for the oysters
and likely explains the rapid proliferation of the population. But
where did they come from?
There are some possible explanations.
Oysters may have slowly spread down the coast to Salem Sound from
other populations to the north in Maine. Because American oysters
are uncommon in Gulf of Maine cooler waters, the Maine Department
of Sea and Shore Fisheries imported European seed stock from the
Netherlands in the 1950's to establish fishable oyster populations
along the Maine coast. Some oysters died out in some areas but proliferated
in others. Today, European oysters have gained a stronghold in Casco
Bay, and at times they support a small fishery. This oyster also
is a favorite of Maine aquaculturists.
Therefore, with a 12-14 day larval
period, it is possible that some larvae spawned in Maine could have
found their way to Massachusetts via coastal currents in the much
the same way that the "red tide" organism, the dinoflagellate Alexandrium,
spread southward to Massachusetts.
On the other hand, perhaps Sea
Plantations, a private research and consulting company on the shore
of Salem Harbor, allowed oyster spat to escape into the Harbor in
the 1980's during oyster experiments. This is a more likely explanation
because the oyster population appears to have started in Salem Harbor
and proliferated from there.
It is also possible that the
oysters spread from live oysters disposed in the area by individuals
and/or seafood dealers. Furthermore, misguided plantings or disposal
into the wild also could be a factor since European oysters were
widely available in the seafood trade long before they began to
appear in the wild in Massachusetts. An isolated population under
a bridge in Duxbury is believed to have started in this way. It
is unlikely that the oysters have spread from any of the aquaculture
sites where they were planted in Massachusetts since no evidence
of spawning or natural settings exists in the vicinity of these
Unfortunately, the majority of
oysters are located within Salem Sound -- a prohibited shellfishing
area. Utilization of this resource would require a reclassification
of the area to allow shellfishing. But, Salem Sound water quality
has improved recently, and if current local efforts to eliminate
sources of pollution continue, a new fishery might be possible.
Salem Sound appears to be an
ideal environment for European oysters. They are located on hard
bottom areas from the low tide line to depths of 20 feet. Their
growth rate is phenomenal, attaining diameters of 4-5 inches in
just two seasons. In Marblehead Harbor, boaters find 3-inch oysters
on their mooring lines in just one season!
In addition to being in an ideal
physical environment, a unique survival strategy has probably contributed
to the rapid proliferation of the oysters in the Salem Sound area
as well. Unlike most native bivalve mollusks which reproduce externally
in the water column, European oysters actually fertilize their eggs
internally, and development occurs inside the female providing a
tremendous population growth rate advantage.
It is too early to make conclusions
about impacts of this new arrival to our waters. Important questions
remain about the ecological role of the European oyster in its new-found
habitat. For example, little is known about competitive interactions
between the European oyster and other native bivalves, such as the
Nevertheless, for now, this introduction
serves as a reminder that non-indigenous organisms have the potential
to cause ecological disruptions and reduce biodiversity. This reminder
is especially relevant because the Commonwealth is entering a period
of increased interest in aquaculture. Years ago, introduced species
most often occurred during migrations of humans across the seas
and continents. The problem of exotic species introductions has
become more complicated for resource managers; economic incentives
for aquaculture have grown.
While most introduced species
usually have a devastating impact on the native fauna, European
oysters may have taken over a niche currently unoccupied by native
mollusk species. If this introduction does indeed turn out to be
benign and water quality improves enough to allow shellfishing,
an important new fishery potential exists.
Although European oysters, when
eaten raw on the half shell, are not very popular in this country
due to their strong flavor, removal of the gills improves their
flavor considerably making them comparable in flavor to our native
oysters. When cooked, European oysters lose their strong flavor
and are comparable, or even more desirable, than American oysters.
by Wayne Castonguay and Brad Chase,
with contributions by Michael Hickey
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Cat Cove Marine Lab relocates
On October 28, 1996 DMF relocated its North Shore
programs and staff from Cat Cove Marine Laboratory in Salem to the
former federal seafood technology laboratory at 30 Emerson Avenue
in Gloucester. Ownership of the federal facility is currently being
transferred to the Division as a result of federal legislation passed
in 1996 through the efforts of Congressman Torkildsen.
The new facility is comprised
of a main laboratory and office building, a small bacteriological
laboratory, hazardous waste building, storage facility, and maintenance
building. The main laboratory and office space have been newly painted
and carpeted and provide much needed increased space for the Division's
needs and future expansion.
Approximately 25 staff will be
housed at the facility in the near future. Presently 5 laboratory
staff remain at Cat Cove in Salem, and they will later join their
colleagues at the new facility recently named by Commissioner Phillips
as the "Annisquam River Marine Fisheries Station." North Shore functions
at the new facility will include recreational fisheries programs,
statistics, shellfish classification, paralytic shellfish poisoning
program, economics, lobster and finfish sea sampling, and eventually,
the analytical chemistry function.
The new address is:
Marine Fisheries Station
30 Emerson Avenue
Gloucester, MA 01930
The phone numbers are:
Noreen Whitaker, Administrative Assistant
to Director Phil Coates, has left DMF for a position at the Office
of Coastal Zone Management. Noreen served DMF for four years and
performed a variety of tasks for the Boston office staff, including
the distribution of DMF News, Sportfishing Guide, and scheduling
of all Marine Fisheries Commission meetings and hearings. CZM's
gain is clearly our loss. We wish her lots of success in her new
endeavor, and thank her for her dedication to DMF and our constituents.
Jessica Harris, biologist on the Conservation
Engineering Project left DMF to accept a teaching position at the
Westport Watershed Alliance. Henry Milliken joined the project.
Henry comes with 5 years of experience in the University of Rhode
Island Fisheries Program.
Bob Glenn, joined the Coastal Lobster
Investigations Project. Bob had worked briefly for DMF last summer
after completing his Master of Science degree from UMASS Dartmouth
studying the sea raven.
Last spring we welcomed three
new sea samplers aboard: Rob Johnston, Bill Hoffman and Holly
Yachmetz. Rob worked for the NMFS sea sampling program, Bill
worked as a sampler for the Manomet Bird Observatory, and Holly
brings sea sampling experience from the west coast tuna fisheries.
Former sea sampler Jeremy King was promoted to the Resource Assessment
Dr. Xi He, from the University of Hawaii,
joined the Sportfisheries Program and is studying striped bass spawning
stock biomass trends and projections.
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EDITORS: Dan McKiernan & David
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
Public Hearings / Regulations / Legislation
Volume 6 Number 4
Table of Contents
for Rules Update....
Notices of Public
Regulatory Update: including Northern Shrimp,
Sea Herring, Coastal Access Permits, Monkfish, and...
DMF Still Objects to Proposed Scup Quota Plan
Notice of Public
Hearings Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Commission Public
Hearings Scheduled for December 2 and 3, 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 322 CMR 7.01(4)(b)
Contaminated Bait (soft-shelled clams) to eliminate any future
issuance of the so-called "bait permits" to take contaminated
soft-shelled clams for bait purposes, after 1996. This proposal
seeks to address DMF's and the Division of Environmental Law Enforcement's
increased concerns about unlawful consumption of these clams threatening
The contaminated bait permit
allows fishermen to harvest contaminated soft-shelled clams for
bait purposes only. There are 19 designated bait areas, and the
licensed fisherman may choose one area only, which is listed on
the permit. The harvest is for personal use only, not for sale,
and the licensee is limited to one 12 quart pail per week. In 1996
the Division issued 266 of these permits, 150 for Lynn Harbor.
Compliance with the no-sale and
no-consumption restrictions has always been a problem, since there
is no way to determine the fate of clams after they're removed from
the flats. Over the last several years, as the number of fishermen
licensed to take contaminated bait increased, concerns were raised
that the clams were being sold, and some such cases have been detected
by the Division of Law Enforcement. Following the recently publicized
enforcement operation by state and federal officers, the extent
of the illegal operations became more obvious, and the public health
risk is unacceptable.
DMF has taken immediate steps
to reduce this risk by closing Lynn Harbor area to all bait digging.
However a more effective and practical means to protect public health
will be to eliminate the permit.
2) DMF proposal to implement a comprehensive
program to protect Northern right whales in critical habitat
within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. If
completed in time, proposals from the recent court-ordered Right
Whale Working Group will be presented at hearings.
A) All permits issued by the
Division of Marine Fisheries to fishermen using gear capable of
entangling Northern right whales would be conditioned to reduce
or eliminate the risk of entanglement.
B) Specific measures proposed
as alternatives to minimize entanglement include closures to fixed
gear in areas and times of known concentrations of right whales;
and/or modifications to fishing gear to reduce risk of entanglement;
and development of an intensified cooperative surveillance and reporting
program to track Northern right whales to facilitate research and
disentanglement if it occurs.
3. Develop regulations pursuant to Chapter
218 of the Acts of 1996 ("An Act Limiting the landing of Lobsters
Taken By Dragging Apparatus") to clarify provisions of that statute.
This law now limits the landing of lobsters by gear types "other
than pots and traps". To support the statute and clarify certain
provisions the following is proposed:
A) Clarify the language in the
statute relating to the number of lobsters that can be landed after
one 24-hour day and within 7 days. DMF proposes to establish a 100
lobster per day landing possession limit to a maximum of 500 lobsters
for any trip five days or greater. A "day" will be defined as each
24 hour period. (For example, a fishing trip greater than 24 hours
but less than 48 hours shall constitute 2 days and a limit of 200
lobsters would apply.) A possession limit of 100 lobsters shall
be applied to any vessel that cannot document sufficiently to the
Division of Law Enforcement the length (in hours) of the trip.
B) To create a distinction between
vessels taking lobsters by pots & traps and those taking lobsters
by other methods, and to facilitate effective enforcement, DMF proposes
to make it "unlawful for any vessel rigged for commercial netting
to exceed the lobster landings as noted above (100 per day, not
to exceed 500 for any trip 5 days or longer). "Rigged for netting"
for any trawler means having a trawl net and doors aboard, and for
any gillnetter means outfitted with a net hauler.
4) Interstate Lobster Management will
be discussed. The ASMFC Public Information Document (PID) for
Lobster Management (Amendment 3 to the Fishery Management Plan for
American lobster) will be available and comments accepted. ASMFC,
in an October 21 news release, stated that the PID "provides the
fishing and general public with a chance to provide input while
Amendment 3 is still a 'blank sheet'." This new amendment signals
a shift in primary responsibility for lobster management from the
New England Fishery Management Council to the Atlantic Coastal States
ASMFC intends to have a draft
of Amendment #3 ready for April 1997 public hearings. ASMFC approval
of the Amendment is scheduled for ASMFC's 1997 Annual Meeting in
Two hearings have been scheduled:
Monday, December 2, 1996 at 7:00 p.m. at Mass Maritime Academy,
Buzzards Bay; and
Tuesday, December 3, 1996 at 7:00 p.m. at the Fuller School off
Blackburn Circle in Gloucester.
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During the period September - November the
following decisions were made by DMF and the Marine Fisheries Commission.
Northern Shrimp Season Rules Approved
The ASMFC Northern Shrimp Section met on Oct. 29 approved rules
for 1996-97, and these were later approved by the Commission. This
upcoming season will be similar in length to last years lasting
December through May, but instead of Sunday being a mandatory no-fishing
day, blocks of time were adopted as an alternative strategy were
accepted. These no-fishing blocks will be Dec. 24-28; January 27-31;
Feb 17-20; March 24-27; April 21-24;, and the season will end on
May 27. Any vessel landing norther shrimp in Massachusetts ports
must possess a Massachusetts regulated fishery permit. Contact Kevin
Creighton at xt. 377.
Sea herring spawning closure regulations
amended (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 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.
Coastal Access Permits to fish mobile gear
in state waters granted to certain old, aging vessels that are
at least 50 years old and held a Coastal Access Permit in 1994.
Furthermore these vessels must 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
Monkfish tail length defined for enforcement
purposes. The monkfish tail minimum size regulation was clarified
as the distance from the anterior portion of the fourth cephalic
spine to the end of the caudal fin. This spine is the first, short,
slender spine of the first dorsal fin following the three isolated
head spines. Therefore, for enforcement purposes, the tail begins
at the forward part of the first dorsal fin (fin with webbing).
New definition: Monkfish
tail means the distance between the first, short, slender
spine of the first dorsal fin (fin with webbing following the three
separated head spines) to the end of the tail. This new definition
of tail length was needed since many fishermen had opted to cut
the tail very liberally by including a piece if the head to make
the tail conform to the minimum size standard.
Also regulations were enacted
that limits the landing of monkfish livers: the weight of all monkfish
livers shall not exceed 10% of the weight of whole monkfish on board;
(2) the weight of all monkfish livers shall not exceed 25% of the
weight of all monkfish tails on board; and (3) monkfish must be
landed as either tails and/or whole fish. These rules on livers
addresses concerns that livers were being taken from undersized
DMF is commenting on the Regulatory Amendment
to the Fishery Management Plan for the scup fishery. We encourage
everyone affected by the Amendment to voice an opinion with the National
Marine Fisheries Service in Gloucester. We continue to protest this
amendment that fails to equitably distribute a coastwide quota between
coastal states, especially to Massachusetts. We already have registered
our opposition to this Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council/Atlantic
States Marine Fisheries Commission plan and amendment with its approach
that unfairly and inappropriately penalizes Massachusetts scup fishermen
and dealers for discards that occur in other fisheries, areas, and
times. Next year marks the first year of quota management for scup.
Quotas are reduced by subtracting expected discards off the top.
We still consider the amendment
to be the consequence of an ill-advised quota management approach
because much of the scup discarding occurs elsewhere during small-mesh
fishing for other species such as squid and whiting. Therefore,
the task of equitably distributing a coastwide quota becomes impossible
since the quota always will be low due to this discarding that is
unavoidable in the Mid-Atlantic/Southern New England mixed trawl
fishery. Overfishing that has reduced scup to historical low levels
forcing a low quota for 1997 was not the consequence of Massachusetts
fishermen already restricted by DMF regulations (e.g., night closure
to mobile gear fishing).
Another of our major objections
to the Scup Plan and its Amendment is the 7-year fishing mortality
rate reduction schedule with year 2 being 1997. Exploitation rate
(percent of fish removed each year due to fishing) is to be cut
from the current 69% to 19% in year 7 (2002). Because Massachusetts
commercial landings from May through October probably were as high
as 2 million lbs. or more in recent years, in actuality, the proposed
May-October Massachusetts' quota of about 360,000 lbs. forces Massachusetts
to reach (or perhaps surpass) the seventh year fishing mortality
target in just one year! We can only imagine how low this quota
will fall in the future with the step-down reduction in exploitation
through 2002. Our problem lies with inaccurate records of scup landings
in Massachusetts during the 1988-1992 period chosen as the basis
for determining quota shares. According to the National Marine Fisheries
Service, average Massachusetts 1988-1992 scup landings from May-October
were about 811,000 lbs.
Fortunately, states have been
given time to revisit the landings record and change the numbers
provided convincing cases can be made for "corrections." DMF is
working with dealers to obtain more accurate records of actual landings
by the scup commercial fishery-- landings never recorded by NMFS
or DMF. Unless we can provide a better record of actual landings,
an early closure of the Massachusetts inshore fishery will be a
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UPDATE is published quarterly to
publicize regulatory matters affecting marine fisheries.
Director: Philip G. Coates, DMF
Commissioner: John C. Phillips, DFWELE
Secretary: Trudy Coxe, EOEA
Governor: William F. Weld
Editor: Daniel J. McKiernan, DMF / Art Dir.: David G. Gabriel, DFWELE