Volume 15, Third Quarter July - September 1995

Table of Contents

  1. Groundfish Hearings Scheduled
  2. Request for Natural Disaster Declaration Denied: Appeal Underway
  3. DMF and NE Aquarium to Study Groundfish Longlining
  4. Help Available For Fishermen Considering Career Changes
  5. DMF Black Sea Bass Research To Aid Management
  6. DMF on the Scup Plan: Curtail Discards and Offshore Fishing
  7. Short Casts

Groundfish Hearings Scheduled

Proposals to Restrict Cod, Haddock, and Yellowtail Catches Will Bring Unprecedented Impacts

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 #7.

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:

Alternative 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 alternatives.

Alternative 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.

Alternative 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.

Alternative 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.

Recreational 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.

by Dan McKiernan

Request for Natural Disaster Declaration Denied: Appeal Underway 

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:

"...we 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:

"Increase 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 pressure."

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.

DMF and NE Aquarium to study groundfish longlining

Claims 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 fish discarded.

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.

Help available for fishermen considering career changes 

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 interested in.

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

by Lou MacKeil, Cape Cod & Islands Program Coordinator.

DMF Black Sea Bass Research to Aid Management

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 mature.

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. Paul noted:

" 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.

DMF on the Scup Plan: Curtail Discards and Offshore Fishing 

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 mesh regulations.

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 fish.

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 today.

by David E. Pierce, co-editor and Massachusetts representative to the ASMFC Fluke, Scup, and Sea Bass Board.

Short casts

New 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. 

New 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 permit.

Coming 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

ay 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.

Pogies (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.

Striped 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.

Summer 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.

Massachusetts 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.

COASTSWEEP 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 debris.

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.

EDITORS: Dan McKiernan and  David Pierce
GRAPHICS: David Gabriell

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-