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 17 Fourth Quarter October - December 1997

Table of Contents...

  1. Quest for Reliable Fisheries Statistics  
  2. Coastal Fishery Data Collection Program Nearing Final Phase
  3. Photo Opportunity - for the 1998 Saltwater Sportfish Guide
  4. Estimating Recreational Fisheries Catch
  5. DMF Oversees New Phytoplankton Monitoring Program
  6. Summer Flounder Quota % Shares Unchanged
  7. Few Changes for Striped Bass 1998 Regulations
  8. New Ladders for Mashpee & Three Mile Rivers
  9. Table of Contents for Rules Update including Public Hearings, Regulatory and Legislative Updates

Quest for Reliable Fisheries Statistics

Working with state and federal partners, DMF Assists Development of Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program
GOOD DATA, GOOD DECISIONS. These are the expectations of those who have worked for the last few years to develop the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program (ACCSP). Highlighted in the just-released brochure describing the Program is the following statement: "The ACCSP is a cooperative effort among federal and state fisheries managers and commercial and recreational fishermen to coordinate and improve data collection activities on the Atlantic coast." Considering the importance of this program, we've assembled details provided by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC).

DMF's own Information Systems and Fisheries Statistics Project has played an important role in developing the ACCSP, and for good reason. The project already has been on the firing line for collection of good quality and timely fisheries statistics. Project personnel are Charlie Anderson (Operations Committee and several standing and ad hoc Committees), Thomas Hoopes (Computer System Steering Committee), and David McCarron (Commercial Fisheries Technical Committee and Committee on Economics and Social Science). DMFÕs Sportfisheries Program Director, Paul Diodati, was a member of the original Steering Committee that led to the formation of ACCSP; he chaired ASMFC's Recreational Statistics Committee.

An important responsibility of DMF's Statistics Project is the gathering of records of dealers' purchases of species for which there is a state/federal quota, such as summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, striped bass, and bluefish. Consequently, our Statistics Project is especially aware of the need for all states to develop the means and willingness to support ACCSP with its many benefits such as "decreasing the reporting burden on fishermen by requiring submission of data to only one reporting agency."

The Commonwealth has commercial fisheries that are not well represented in the National Marine Fisheries Service record of Massachusetts landings. Scup is an excellent example. Massachusetts' May through October percent share of the Mid-Atlantic Council/ASMFC scup commercial quota is based on grossly inaccurate and incomplete records of scup landings in Massachusetts. As a result, the Commonwealth sued the Secretary of Commerce. Our last newsletter described the on-going lawsuit.

The federal record of black sea bass landings in Massachusetts could be just as deficient as scup, especially for landings taken by rod and reel and sold to dealers who have not reported their purchases to NMFS. Reporting has been voluntary. Sea bass will be managed by quarterly quotas in 1998. Is the second quarter quota less than it should be because the record of April through June landings in Massachusetts is incomplete? If ACCSP had been in place over the last decade or so, this question would not be asked.

BAD DATA, BAD DECISIONS. This is DMF's position on scup - a position that might apply to sea bass. For this and many other reasons, DMF supports ACCSP and encourages fishermen, dealers, and other interested parties to comment on the Program's design.

If we've learned nothing else over the years, we've learned that our efforts to assess fish abundance, develop and adopt sensible fisheries management plans and regulations, and monitor the effectiveness of our plans, are seriously handicapped by poor data. The ACCSP cooperative effort and increased credibility in the data will lead to more confidence in fisheries management decision-making for all involved.

Addition information about ACCSP can be obtained from Charlie Anderson at DMF's new Gloucester facility (978) 282-0308 or from the ACCSP Program manager (202) 289-6400.

by David Pierce

Coastal Fishery Data Collection Program Nearing Final Phase

The Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program (ACCSP) is a cooperative state-federal marine and coastal fisheries data collection program. The goal of the program is to cooperatively collect, manage, and disseminate fishery statistical data and information for the conservation and management of fishery resources of the Atlantic Coast and to support the development and operation of a national data collection program.

It's a well-known fact that Americans love to eat seafood, whether caught by themselves or purchased in a local seafood market. Who wouldn't? Fish are nutritious and tasty, but the amount and selection of fish available to commercial and recreational fishermen vary considerably from year to year.

As worldwide demand for commercially-produced seafood increases, and with the growing numbers of recreational fishermen, many fish stocks are in jeopardy of becoming overfished. The good news about fish is that it is a sustainable resource if managed correctly. We, as resource users, must be careful not to overharvest species to a level where they can't replenish themselves.

Federal, state and regional agencies are charged with the task of preventing overfishing by managing the resource so that we may all continue to enjoy eating seafood and fishing in coastal waters for recreation. To achieve this, fisheries managers need to answer the following questions: How many fish are in the ocean? How many of them can be caught by fishermen and still allow for the continuation of the resource for future generations? The answers to these questions are dependent upon good fisheries data, provided by those people harvesting the fish. Without good data, fisheries managers cannot adequately manage the resource.

In response to this need, the ACCSP is moving forward in the design of a cooperative fisheries data collection system for fishermen and fisheries managers along the Atlantic Coast. So far, the 23 program participants have decided a comprehensive, trip-based reporting system for commercial fishermen and dealers is necessary. They have recognized the importance of improving recreational data by expanding existing telephone and dockside surveys. Also being proposed is a system for collecting social and economic data from commercial and recreational harvesters, dealers, processors, wholesalers, and fishing communities. This data will be used to gain a better understanding of how fishermen and their communities are impacted by fisheries regulations.

ACCSP proposes the following:

  • improving biological data - the program will collect biological data such as length frequencies, age samples, and other parameters to support reliable stock assessment work.
  • development of commercial and recreational quota monitoring programs. This could include a coastwide call-in system for commercial dealers or recreational fishermen to report their total landings; bycatch monitoring - the ACCSP has adopted at-sea observers and fishery-independent programs as the preferred methods for collecting bycatch data.
  • maintaining confidentiality of data - some fisheries statistics are confidential and cannot be disclosed to the public. Nevertheless, effort will be made to provide timely landings summaries and survey information to the industry.
  • enforcement of reporting requirements to ensure valid and timely reporting.

The mission of those working on the ACCSP is to simplify reporting fishing data, while at the same time, to improve the types and amounts of data collected so that fair and reasonable management decisions can be made. Where possible, the ACCSP will eliminate duplication in collecting information. The program will set standards for data collection and management so that resource managers, fishermen, and seafood markets can make better decisions.

What will the ACCSP do for you?

Under current data collection programs fishermen are often required to provide the same information to a number of agencies by filling out separate data sheets or logbooks. One goal is to have marine resource users provide information to one system. With the cooperation of all involved, the data from recreational and commercial fishermen will be consistent, accurate and timely. All users of the resource will have timely access to the same source of information that is used in the fishery management process . The ACCSP is committed to protecting corporate and individual privacy and is currently developing standard protocols to insure confidentiality. With better information, fisheries managers can make better decisions. And better decisions will mean better resource conditions for commercial and recreational fishermen.

Who's involved?

A team of scientists, resource managers, fishermen, dealers, economists, and sociologists are working on the project. Development teams for the ACCSP were selected from state, regional, and federal agencies and from fishing industry groups. As work continues, recommendations regarding the design of the ACCSP are being distributed to the public for comment. All ideas are being considered so that the plan meets the needs of fisheries managers and all users of marine resources.

Commercial fishermen and dealers

The commercial team has designed a system of reporting that includes comprehensive logbook reporting of all marine species harvested by commercial license holders. Other essential data elements will be collected from dealers through weighout sheets or computerized reporting. Very few elements will be duplicated, and the reporting burden will be shared equally by dealers and fishermen. Duplicate reporting to numerous state and federal agencies will be eliminated. Linking fishermen's and dealers' data will be accomplished using a unique ID number to identify every trip in the system. The unique trip identifier is a simple combination of an individual's commercial ID number and the start date of the trip. Other verification methods could include: consistent and simplified law enforcement; independent surveys; and methods designed specifically for self-reported and anecdotal data from industry.

What's ahead for recreational anglers?

No one knows the true number of marine recreational anglers on a fishery by fishery basis. Sampling of recreational anglers could be made more efficient with the establishment of a database of all marine anglers. While a marine recreational fishing license would quickly establish this database, current political realities suggest this to be an unlikely scenario. Even without such a database, improvements in the collection of recreational marine resource data can be realized. Several specific technical committee recommendations should result in greater and more detailed sampling among coastal and non-coastal residents. Approaches to improving catch data from intercept (dockside) and telephone surveys may include increased sample size, increase stratification by sites and evaluating differences in species composition and catch rates between private and public access sites. Approaches to improving fishing effort data may include increased sample size, establishing a long-term survey panel that resamples active fishermen and, expanding the survey to non-coastal and out-of-state areas. For charter/headboat fisheries, an evaluation of three data collection methods will be conducted to determine which method is the most accurate and reliable: comprehensive logbook reporting to collect both catch and effort data; a telephone survey using all identified for-hire coastal vessels to collect effort data; or the Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey effort estimates.

Socioeconomic Data

Wise allocation of resources requires collection of socioeconomic data. Aspects of the program are proposed to gather economic data (i.e., operating costs, revenues) and sociocultural data (i.e., education, ethnicity, gender) from commercial harvesters, dealers, processors, and wholesalers. Recommendations also have been made to collect expenditure and sociocultural data from recreational fishermen and to characterize fishing communities. Simple surveys are being designed and would be completed only occasionally by all members of industry and fishing communities. Where licenses or permits are required, some data can be obtained at the time of application or renewal. Other surveys could be conducted by phone or dockside. Socioeconomic data are necessary to accurately analyze the impacts of proposed management measures on recreational anglers, the commercial seafood industry and fishing communities.

What Are the Next Steps?

Work on developing the details of the data collection system will continue in conjunction with efforts to design the data management system. These activities include development of standards for quality control, timeliness, and data collection forms. In addition, work is being conducted on developing a bycatch monitoring program for all marine species. Priorities are being identified due to the need for phased-in implementation.

The ACCSP will be implemented by the Atlantic state, regional, and federal fisheries management agencies who have agreed to work together on this data collection and data management system. The 23 ACCSP participating agencies are in the process of modifying existing data collection systems to meet the ACCSP model. Representatives from all segments of the fishing industry are directly involved in designing and implementing this program. The ACCSP Implementation Plan will be completed by mid-1998. Full implementation will begin upon completion of the Plan.

What Can You Do to Help Develop the ACCSP?

It is important that the ACCSP be designed not only to meet the needs of fisheries scientists and managers, but also the fishermen and fishing industry who provide the needed information. To make the ACCSP successful and effective, it is important that as much input as possible be given prior to final design. Public input will be gathered on all aspects of the ACCSP.

If you are interested in speaking personally with the fishing industry representative from your state who is participating in the design of this program or would like to learn more about the program, call ACCSP Program Manager, Connie Young-Dubovsky, (202) 289-6400. Written inquiries may be sent to ACCSP Program Manager, 1444 Eye St. N.W., Sixth Floor, Washington, D.C. 20005. Email:

Photo Opportunity

The Sportfisheries Program is compiling the 1998 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 may 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 to:

Karen Rypka, Sportfisheries Program
Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries
50A Portside Drive
Pocasset, MA 02559

Estimating Recreational Fisheries Catch

Have you ever wondered how recreational fisheries catch estimates for species like striped bass and bluefish are obtained? These estimates, important to fisheries managers and stock assessment scientists, are from the Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey (MRFSS). MRFSS is a nation-wide program implemented in 1979 by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for reliable data to estimate impacts of recreational fishing on marine resources. Results are used by NMFS, states, Interstate Fisheries Commissions, and Regional Fisheries Management Councils.

MRFSS is conducted by a NMFS Virginia-based contractor called QuanTech. It consists of two separate but complimentary surveys: a telephone survey of households in coastal counties to estimate trips, and a field intercept survey of anglers at access sites to estimate catch rates and species composition.

MRFSS is used to estimate total number of fish caught, released, and harvested; weight of harvest; total number of trips; and number of people participating in marine recreational fishing. In Massachusetts, NMFS has a target of about 10,000 telephone interviews each year and about 2,000 interviews of anglers completing their fishing trips. DMF pays additional money to QuanTech to triple the Massachusetts number of interviews thereby bringing the total to 6,000. Increasing the sample size serves to improve precision of state-level estimates for many species.

The MRFSS survey is divided into regions: North Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico. The North Atlantic includes Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. MRFSS surveys three separate modes of marine recreational fishing: shore, party and charter boats, and private and rental boats. Intercept interviews and telephone interviews are conducted in six bimonthly "waves" from January/February to November/December.

The Massachusetts recreational fishery dominates landings in the North Atlantic region by a large margin. Over 40% of the average annual total of all recreationally caught fish in this region from 1992-1996 were caught in Massachusetts. While the Massachusetts catch has consisted of over 30 different types of fish, most interest in recent years has focused on catches of striped bass. Preliminary estimates of the 1997 Massachusetts recreational striped bass catch suggest that total catch (including catch-and-release) increased from 1996 levels by as much as 150%, and 1997 harvest (fish kept) of striped bass increased by as much as 267%.

The NMFS MRFSS home page can be found in the world wide web at

DMF Oversees New Phytoplankton Monitoring Program

All along the Massachusetts coast volunteers who are primarily municipal shellfish Department personnel, are closely monitoring phytoplankton populations. This "volunteer" program provides an inexpensive means to obtain useful long-term scientific data.

DMF's Shellfish Project oversees the Massachusetts Phytoplankton Monitoring Program. This program is funded through a federal grant from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Office of Seafood, as part of a regional effort to look for potentially harmful marine phytoplankton (microscopic algae) blooms before they become a threat to human health and affect our fisheries.

The grant was made to the Massachusetts Health Research Institute, Inc. (MHRI) on behalf of and in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Division of Food & Drugs (DPH/DFD). MHRI is responsible for fiscal management, and DPH/DFD has programmatic responsibilities. DMF is responsible for all field aspects of the program including site selection, training of volunteer personnel and reporting. DMF and DFD work together to evaluate the efficacy of the program and to make recommendations to FDA.

The program has been established as a network for collecting environmental information using field plankton sampling and observations to detect early warning signals of marine toxins which have the potential to contaminate our seafood.

DMF has a long established biotoxin monitoring program which tests shellfish for the toxin causing Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, or PSP. This toxin is produced by a microscopic marine phytoplankton called Alexandrium tamarense. When environmental conditions are favorable for this organism, the population may experience a "bloom", causing the "Red Tide" shellfish bed closures.The addition of field monitoring for the presence of toxin-producing phytoplankton enables DMF to increase both the geographic range of monitoring for PSP organisms and to look for other potentially toxic organisms that have not been routinely monitored.

Eighteen sites along the Massachusetts coastline, including Nantucket Island and Martha's Vineyard, are being sampled weekly. Most sites coincide with the primary shellfish collection locations for our biotoxin (PSP) monitoring program. Additional sites were selected to represent other major water bodies which traditionally do not have a PSP history.

Participants in the program have received specialized training by Sherwood Hall of the Office of Seafood, in conjunction with DMF. Training, which is continual, involves use and care of sampling equipment, an understanding of program goals and objectives, and identification of phytoplankton species known to produce biotoxins. Participants are responsible for submitting weekly data to DMF. DMF submits a monthly summary report to participants and involved agencies.

Plankton samples are analyzed on-site using optical field microscopes. Environmental information is also gathered and recorded. Recognition and reporting of unusual environmental conditions or events is another important aspect of this type of "signal" monitoring.

On-site field monitoring provides an immediate reporting mechanism by the volunteers to our agency. This allows DMF to respond rapidly to a potential toxin situation and to proceed with further samples and tests when deemed appropriate.

The Massachusetts Phytoplankton Monitoring Program is also part of a larger cooperative effort in the Northeast that includes Maine and Rhode Island. The West Coast has been involved in this type of monitoring for about five years.

This program has great potential beyond just the obvious goals of an additional layer of protection to public health and the fishing industry. Participants are identifying and reporting many species of phytoplankton and other marine micro-organisms. Data from these observations will provide basic biological and ecological information on the primary producers of the marine ecosystem.

Since most participants collecting data are directly involved with shellfisheries, their interests in the phytoplankton community reaches beyond the primary toxin-producing species. Understanding local phytoplankton populations will aid more efficient management of shellfish propagation and enhancement. Monitoring also will help detection of biological "events" such as shellfish spawns, and in general, will encourage a better understanding of the Commonwealth's complex marine ecosystem.

This program is in its infancy. DMF and DPH/DFD will evaluate the program's effectiveness over the next year or so. DMF hopes the program will help focus toxicity testing on the times and locations of immediate concern.

by Lynn Sherwood, Monitoring Program Coordinator

Summer Flounder Quota % Shares Unchanged

At the ASMFC annual meeting held in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Management Board did not adopt Amendment 11 brought to public hearing in Massachusetts on October 8.

The purpose of the Amendment was to reallocate state commercial quota shares to address inequities in state landings caused by different state size limits during the 1980-1989 baseline years used to calculate the percent shares. The original plan was enacted back in 1982 but the 14" minimum size and mesh restrictions, adopted by Massachusetts in 1983, were not mandatory requirements. As a consequence some states didn't change their minimum size until fairly recently. North Carolina kept its 11" limit until 1989 when it went to 13". Virginia kept its 12" limit. New Jersey stayed at 12" until 1986 when it went to 13". On the other hand, Connecticut and New York already were at 14". Rhode Island adopted 14" in 1984.

Amendment 11, therefore, was viewed by some states as a means to address inequity caused by different size limits. It was argued that states with no size limit or smaller size limits benefitted unfairly from landings of fish that could not be legally landed in states with more restrictive size limits.

The Amendment's preferred alternative (as presented to the public at recent hearings) was to reallocate shares based on all landings from 1980-1982 and size-limit-adjusted landings from 1983-1989. However this re-allocation would only occur if the national fluke quota could be increased by at least 1 million pounds attributable to stock growth. This would have increased Massachusetts' share from the current 6.82% share to 7.70%. (Two other alternatives could have increased our share even higher to either 8.82% or 9.63%.)

At the Board meeting, those in support of the preferred alternative felt that by adopting this alternative, ASMFC would recognize the actions of those states that immediately implemented the provisions of the 1982 ASMFC Plan. It would send a message to states that being proactive, by acting sooner and not later, would not create risks of future penalties such as reduced quota shares caused by lower landings brought about by past conservation measures. This message would be heard by other ASMFC management boards as well.

On the other hand, opponents of the alternative argued that Amendment 11 was a poor substitute for dealing with the bigger issue of how to improve management summer flounder, especially to reduce discards and waste. These states also argued that Amendment 11 would only be triggered after the quota increases by 1 million lbs. since the quota for next year is to be the same as 1997; therefore, even if the amendment was adopted, no shift in shares would occur.

The motion to adopt the alternative failed, primarily because the million pound increase in the national quota could not be accommodated. Recent stock assessment data show a weaker than anticipated 1996 year class. The plan called for a further reducion in fishing mortality in 1998.

The current percent shares will continue. Now, working with the Mid-Atlantic Council, the Board will develop a new amendment with one possible option being no quota east of some boundary. Instead there might be a larger minimum size (such as 16" or 18"), trip limits, and even larger mesh size, perhaps 7".

Fishermen are encouraged to offer their own ideas that can serve as a better substitute for a fluke management system that has cause tremendous waste of fluke off New England, that is, large amounts of discards caused by very small trip limits or a closed fishery tied to very low percent shares.

by David Pierce

Few Changes for Striped Bass 1998 Regulations

In late August, the ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board approved a Draft Addendum II to Amendment 5 to the Striped Bass Plan. The Addendum listed several options for allocating a total allowable catch (TAC) for the next two years. States with major ocean fisheries were concerned with reducing mortality on older striped bass caught in their recreational and commercial fisheries. Public hearings on this Draft began in early September.

Halfway through the public hearing process, however, striped bass stock assessment specialists discovered that 1996 fishing mortality rates (F) might have been overestimated; therefore, proposed harvest reductions for 1998 might have been too high. Faced with this new information, the Management Board decided to suspend the remaining public hearings until it could assess the situation.

The Striped Bass Technical Committee then met on October 16 and 17 to scrutinize assessment data before a final "run" of the virtual population analyses (VPA). At the October 22 Board meeting, the Committee reported that updated F-estimates from 1996 were below the target for that year for all age classes. This conclusion confirmed that the Commission Plan successfully kept fishing mortality below target levels, and the recovered stocks could continue to grow at healthy rates. The Technical Committee also concluded that current striped bass regulations would perpetuate this low F and excellent stock growth through 1998.

Consequently, on October 22 the Striped Bass Board, with the support of its Advisory Panel, approved Addendum II to its Striped Bass Management Plan. This Addendum maintains 1997 ocean fishing regulations for sport and commercial fisheries for 1998. Producer areas will start their 1998 estuarine fisheries at 1997 capped levels, but may submit new proposals to achieve the target fishing mortality after a final stock assessment peer review is complete in January 1998. Likewise, ocean fishing regulations may be revised after peer review if needed to achieve the target harvest rate of 25%.

States with regulations exceeding the minimum requirements (e.g. 28-inch minimum size), may apply immediately to come down to management plan standards. Two states took this opportunity to propose changes in their 1998 striped bass regulations. Virginia proposed a three point plan in which it would:

  1. modify its spring recreational season to match that in the Potomac River,
  2. institute Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs) for commercial fishermen, and
  3. reopen spawning grounds (which have been closed since 1983) to commercial and recreational harvest. New Hampshire proposed to liberalize its recreational regulations from 32-inch minimum size/one fish per day to 28-inch minimum size/two fish per day (which is the Commission standard). Both the Technical Committee and the Management Board approved all these changes except the Virginia spawning ground fishery.

If other states choose to submit proposals after the January review of the Commission's stock assessment results, a public hearing will be held again in any state that requests one. The Management Board and Advisory Panel felt the public should be able to comment on these proposals differing from the status quo and not available in the first round of hearings.

For more information, contact ASMFC's John Field, Anadromous Species Coordinator, at (202)289-6400, ext. 301.

New Ladders for Mashpee & Three Mile Rivers

To help rebuild the Mashpee River herring population, in September DMF's Anadromous Fish Project completed a new fishway on the River at Route 130 in Mashpee. The river's herring population has declined over the last decade due, in part, to low water conditions in Mashpee-Wakeby Pond and to shoaling at the Pond outlet. Up until now, juvenile herring frequently were trapped in the Pond through the winter and, in at least one year, adults were unable to reach the spawning area. Our effort follows the Town of Mashpee's 1995 installation of an outlet stabilization system and its commitment to maintain adequate water levels for fish passage.

The existing fishway was badly deteriorated and essentially non-functional. In addition, the newer section downstream of the road was poorly designed and caused a delay in fish movement.

Funding for materials was provided by the Town with additional monies for modification of the lower section supplied through a grant secured by Barnstable County Natural Resource Conservation Services.

Some of the features of the new ladder, which should dramatically improve access to the spawning area, are deepened pools for larger numbers of fish, lower floor elevation allowing passage under low water conditions, and baffles of adjustable planks for adequate flow when water levels are low. Also, a 20-foot extension was added to the lower section to reduce the difference in elevation between baffles.

In addition to completing the Mashpee ladder, DMF's fishway construction crew installed a prefab, wooden Denil ladder on the Three Mile River in Dighton. The fishway was constructed by volunteers from the Town of Dighton. DMF provided the design, and MCZM provided funding for materials.

by Ken Reback


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, Commissioner DFWELE
Trudy Coxe, Secretary, EOEA
Argeo Paul Cellucci, 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 11/97-$2250

Division of Marine Fisheries
100 Cambridge Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02202

Division of Marine Fisheries
Public Hearings / Regulations / Legislation

Volume 7 Number 4

Table of Contents for Rules Update....

  1. Notices of Public Hearings
  2. Regulatory Update
  3. Legislative Update

Notice of Public Hearings
Scheduled for November 24 and 25, 1997


Under the provisions of G.L. C. 30A and pursuant to the authority found in G.L. c 130 ss. 17A, 80, 100A, and 104 the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the Marine Fisheries Commission have scheduled hearings on the following:

(1) DMF proposals for managing the Massachusetts commercial summer flounder (fluke) quota for 1998;

(2) DMF proposals for establishing sea bass and scup landing limits for 1998 consistent with the ASMFC and Mid-Atlantic Council Management Plans;

(3) DMF proposal to regulate the landing and processing (at-sea) of sea herring consistent with recent ASMFC initiatives;

   Prohibition on landing of sea herring by vessels greater than 165' overall length and 3,000 horsepower, and
   Prohibition of direct mealing of herring

(4) DMF seeks comments on a recent emergency action to close the Massachusetts inshore scup fishery on October 13, 1997.

(5) Five proposals for minor changes to the state's Conservation Plan for Northern Right Whales:

   Adoption of certain breaking strength standards for any buoy lines on lobster gear deployed in Cape Cod Bay Critical Habitat within state waters during January 1 - May 15: 322 CMR 12.03 (Break-Away Buoy Lines).
   Amendment of the 4-pot trawl minimum to allow the use of "doubles" - where one buoy line is attached to a two-pot string.
   Proposal to exempt certain areas from the fixed gear restrictions where whales are not likely to occur. Some of the so-called inshore net areas (322 CMR 4.02) would include Barnstable Harbor, Wellfleet Harbor, and parts of Provincetown Harbor.
   Establish a mechanism whereby the Director could suspend the fixed gear rules if whales depart the Bay early. "After April 1 when at least three full surveys of the bay yield no sightings the Director may suspend the fixed gear restrictions."
   Create a new gear marking scheme to designate "modified" lobster gear in Critical Habitat consistent with the regulations. This proposal would allow the surveillance teams to identify the abandoned and/or un-modified gear for removal.

For more details contact DMF at 100 Cambridge St. Boston, MA 02202 (617) 727-3193.

Two hearings have been scheduled:

Monday November 24, 7:00 p.m. at the Mass. Maritime Academy, Buzzards Bay; and
Tuesday November 25, at 7:00 p.m. at` the Fuller School in Gloucester.

Regulatory Update

During the period September through October the following decisions were made by DMF and the Marine Fisheries Commission.

1) Sea Herring Spawning Closure amended to increase spawning protection. The three-week closure was modified to September 17 with the potential for extending it based on biological monitoring when more than 25% of large females (larger than 28 cm) have not yet spawned. The annual sea herring closure is a prohibition on the targeting or landing of sea herring designed to prevent vessels from catching vulnerable sea herring spawning aggregations. This regulation dates back to the early 1980s as a cooperative measure with the states of Maine and New Hampshire under the auspices of the ASMFC. Last year the closure was begun a week early on September 24. Now the regulations close the fishery beginning on September 17 with the potential to extend the closure beyond the three week period based on herring spawning status. DMF used biological sampling to extend the closure an additional week (October 10-17) this past month.

Summer Flounder: DMF clarified the summer flounder possession limits to make them on a per-vessel limit basis instead of a per-permit limit. Also, DMF established a process to authorize vessels not engaging in fishing activities to transport summer flounder under the authority of a valid dealer's permit.

Fish pots for taking sea bass and scup must now be equipped with escape vents and biodegradable escape panels to allow fish to escape from pots that are lost over time. These rules are required by the interstate fishery management plan. The following apply:

Escape vents: Scup pot or trap escape vents 2.25" square, 3.1" diameter circular, or the equivalent. Sea bass pots require a vent or opening at least 2.0" in diameter; 1.5" square; or 1 1/8" by 5 3/4".

Degradable panels: Hinges and fasteners of one panel or door in pots or traps must be one of the following degradable materials: untreated hemp, jute or cotton string of 3/16" (4.8mm) or smaller; magnesium alloy, timed float releases (pop-up devices) or similar magnesium alloy fasteners; or ungalvanized or uncoated iron wire of 0.094" (2.4 mm) diameter or smaller.

Bluefish netting: DMF and the MFC decided not to eliminate the limited circle-net fishery for bluefish (322 CMR 4.05 ) that is permitted in southeastern Cape Cod Bay and south of Cape Cod. However, the MFC voted to require that only the holders of the permit be allowed to fish them and the permits be non-transferable. Recently this fishery has been inactive since catches of bluefish have declined over the past decade.

The scup commercial fishery closed on Monday, October 13 and re-opened on November 1 with a landing/ possession limit of 12,000 lbs. through December 31. November 1 is the beginning of the Council/ASMFC Scup Plan's second winter period when all states' fishermen compete for a coastwide November through December quota (956,400 lbs. in 1997) but with a landing limit of 12,000 pounds. Massachusetts' scup commercial fishery is primarily in state waters and from May through October.

This 3-week closure, implemented by emergency action, occurred about three months after NMFS prohibited landings (July 2) in Massachusetts by all holders of scup federal permits regardless of where they fished. NMFS had projected the Commonwealth's 362,000 lbs. share of the Council/Commission summer quota (May through October) would be taken at that time.

By October 13, landings since May 1 reported to DMF by all scup dealers in Massachusetts reached about 1.5 million pounds. This total and overage of the state's federally-imposed summer quota, was expected by DMF, as well as by Massachusetts fishermen and dealers. The federal record of Massachusetts scup landings, used to establish quota shares, is seriously incomplete and inaccurate. Dealers and fishermen have never had to report their purchases or landings to NMFS or DMF, with some exceptions. Now with mandatory reporting and licensing, landings that otherwise would have been unrecorded are now being tallied.

If the Commonwealth had agreed to accept the 362,000 lbs. summer quota, our inshore scup commercial fishery would have lasted about one month. More important, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council/ Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Scup Management Plan's seven-year recovery schedule would drive Massachusetts' quota downwards in years to come and eventually allow a fishery of only a week, if at all. This is one reason why the Commonwealth was forced to seek relief in the Court. Massachusetts' initial 1998 quota (before subtracting 1997 overage) is only 219,000 lbs.- an amount that would have allowed a fishery of about two weeks in 1997.

We continue to insist that the 362,000 lbs. "summer" allocation is an unfair and inequitable amount allocated to Massachusetts and is based on grossly incomplete and inaccurate federal records of Massachusetts scup landings. This is just one of the Commonwealth's arguments in its lawsuit against the Secretary of Commerce and the Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service. That complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court on June 19 shortly after the Council/ASMFC Scup Plan Regulatory Amendment, establishing May through October quota shares, was implemented by NMFS.

We decided to prohibit the landing and possession of scup by commercial fishermen as of October 13 to avoid ASMFC attempting to rule Massachusetts out of compliance with the Scup Plan because we had not closed our commercial fishery. ASMFC met in Hershey, Pennsylvania from October 20-24. If the Commonwealth had been ruled out of compliance, the Secretary of Commerce would have declared a moratorium on fishing for scup in Massachusetts waters. A moratorium would have shut down the Commonwealth's commercial and recreational fisheries. An unwarranted closure of the recreational fishery caused by a moratorium had to be avoided.

This closure in no way diminished our argument that the Commonwealth's 15.5% share of the May through October quota is far too low. Furthermore, we still insist that the Council and NMFS have not effectively addressed offshore trawlers' discard of scup, especially during the winter. For example, in 1995 discard (assumed 100% mortality) was estimated to be about 4,534,000 lbs (about 52.5 million fish - mostly juveniles). Landings were about 6,376,000 lbs. (about 14.6 million fish). The Commonwealth has been unfairly penalized for this discard because the Scup Plan deducts an estimate of what discards will be in the coming year (based on past years' discards) from a total allowable catch to determine the commercial quota that is then allocated to the states. Discarding/mortality of scup in Massachusetts commercial inshore fisheries with fish pots, weirs, and handlines is minuscule compared to discarding/mortality elsewhere.

For further information, contact David Pierce in DMF's Boston office.

Legislative Update

Previously reported bills update: DMF was successful in getting H. 90 (increases fines for the possession or sale of female lobsters from which eggs have been removed) and H. 91 (allows DMF to promulgate regulations regarding the transfer of limited entry permits) out of House Ways and Means. Both bills are scheduled for a third reading in the House. Once enacted by the House, the bills will be sent to the Senate ... Senator Edward "Chip" Clancy's bill S. 1013 (allows DMF to promulgate regulations permitting possession and on-shore processing of shell-on frozen lobster tails by wholesale dealers) was enacted by the House and Senate and was sent to Governor Cellucci's desk on October 29 where it awaits his signature before becoming law. S. 1074 (bans sale of live fishing bait in plastic containers) remains in Senate Third Reading where it is undergoing a redraft...

New bill: On October 29, DMF Assistant Director Jim Fair and Major Phil McMann and Sergeant Tim Carroll of the Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) testified against H. 5053 (shifts regulatory control of contaminated shellfish areas from state to local cities and towns) which was filed to counteract DMF's decision not to reissue bait permits. DMF and DLE presented evidence which showed persons selling contaminated shellfish, taken under the authority of a bait permit, to restaurants and dealers for human consumption.

Concern for public health outweighed the inconvenience which may be caused to persons who legitimately used these contaminated clams for bait. The Committee placed the bill in a study.

For more information about these or other marine related bills, please contact Deputy General Counsel, Priscilla Geigis at 617-727-1614, ext. 388 or email at

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: Argeo Paul Cellucci
Editor: Daniel J. McKiernan, DMF / Art Dir.: David G. Gabriel, DFWELE