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News 2020 Commercial Quota Outlook

Quota overview for 2020. The quotas described herein are subject to change. Check the Division’s quota monitoring webpage for updates on commercial quotas and landings.
  • Division of Marine Fisheries

The quotas described herein are subject to change. Check the Division’s quota monitoring webpage for updates on commercial quotas and landings.

Atlantic herring: 25,289,226 pounds (coastwide limit)

The Atlantic herring fishery will continue to be constrained by reduced catch limits reflecting the stock’s declining trend due to poor recruitment of herring into the population. The 2020 catch limit is reduced by 26% from 2019 (34.3 million pounds). For contrast, the 2018 fishery commenced with a 223-million-pound catch limit. Landings for 2019 through mid-December total 28 million pounds. Allocations to Areas 1A, 1B, 2, and 3 are expected to remain status quo at 28.9%, 4.3%, 27.8%, and 39%, respectively, with the addition of an inshore midwater trawl restricted area from the Canadian border to Montauk. The next stock assessment is scheduled to take place in 2020 and affect the setting of the quota for 2021. Beginning in 2019, herring catch limits are set in a manner that accounts for herring’s role as forage in the ecosystem.

Atlantic menhaden: 6,046,094 pounds (MA quota)

The 2020 coastwide commercial quota of 476.2 million pounds is unchanged from last year. MA’s share is 1.27%, after 1% is set aside for episodic events affecting the northeast states. Our 2020 state quote includes an additional 37,529 pounds relinquished by states that don’t intend to use all of their allocation; an amount similar to last year. The 2019 Massachusetts fishery landed nearly 7 million pounds with the assistance of several transfers of quota from other states. The first-ever ecosystem-based stock assessment for menhaden is due to be completed in early 2020 and is expected to inform the setting of future menhaden quotas in a manner that incorporates its important forage role. 

Black sea bass: 725,400 pounds (MA quota)

The coastwide commercial quota was increased 59% for 2020, from 3.52 million pounds in 2019 to 5.58 million pounds. Massachusetts’ share is 13%, resulting in an additional 267,500 pounds for our fishery in 2020 (up from 457,600 pounds). The Massachusetts fishery landed 110% of its quota in 2019, but this is unlikely to affect our 2020 quota because of sufficient underages in other states. Public hearings will be held this winter to determine whether state regulations should be modified in response to the increased quota. 

Bluefish: 185,838 pounds (MA quota)

The most recent stock assessment for bluefish indicates the stock is overfished. The decline in biomass, coupled with there being no excess recreational harvest target to transfer to the commercial fishery, has resulted in a 64% decline in the coastwide commercial quota for 2020 (from 7.71  million pounds in 2019 to 2.77 million pounds). Our state share of the quota (6.7%) is similarly reduced (from 517,828 pounds in 2019); however, this might not limit the 2020 fishery given recent landings trends. Massachusetts landings in 2019 continued their downward trend, totaling just over 183,000 pounds.

Horseshoe crab: 165,000 crabs (MA quota)

Massachusetts’ 2020 commercial quota for horseshoe crabs harvested for bait purposes is unchanged from 2019. Horseshoe crabs harvested for other purposes (i.e., biomedical use, research, display) are not counted against this quota. 2019 marked the first year that the fishery reached the quota.

Northern shrimp: 0 pounds (coastwide quota)

The commercial harvest moratorium that has been in place the last seven years for northern shrimp will continue into 2020, due to the stock’s low levels of biomass and recruitment. The stock has limited prospects for recovery in the near future due to an increasingly inhospitable environment, i.e., warning ocean temperatures in western Gulf of Maine shrimp habitat.

Scup: 1,868,982 pounds (MA Summer Period quota)

At 22.23 million pounds, the 2020 coastwide commercial quota is down 7% from 2019 (when it was 23.98 million pounds). The quota is divided among three seasons. The Winter I Period (January–April) and Winter II Period (October–December) receive 45.11% and 15.94% of the coastwide quota, respectively; this equates to 10.03 and 3.54 million pounds for 2020. Quota during these periods is open to all states. The fisheries have not been limited by these quotas in recent years. Of the 38.95% (or 8.66 million pounds for 2020) allocated to the Summer Period fishery (May–September), Massachusetts receives roughly 21.6%. Our Summer Period harvest in 2019 was roughly 0.68 million pounds, continuing a downward trend. The summer fishery has not been constrained by the quota since 2008. 

Spiny dogfish: 13,453,004 pounds (ME–CT quota)

The coastwide commercial quota is increasing 13% to 23.19 million pounds for the May 1, 2020 through April 30, 2021 fishing year. The Northern Region of Maine through Connecticut receives 58% of the coastwide quota, of which Massachusetts generally takes the largest portion. This year’s Northern Region fishery is nearing its conclusion with less than 8 million pounds landed, well below the region’s 11.9-million-pound quota. 2.2 million pounds of this excess has been transferred to Virginia to avoid an early closure there.

Striped bass: TBD (MA quota)

The coastal states’ commercial quotas for striped bass have been cut by 18% for 2020 to end overfishing on the resource. This reduces Massachusetts’ baseline quota from 869,813 pounds to 713,246 pounds; however, DMF is considering a revision to the state’s commercial size limit which has the potential to affect the quota. There will not be any overage from the 2019 fishery to account for, as just 585,852 pounds of the 869,813-pound quota was landed. Given the fishery’s recent underperformance with the quota and the various options for the commercial size limit and quota, DMF will be holding public hearings this winter on the fishery’s regulations for 2020.

Summer flounder (fluke): 786,260 pounds (MA quota)

A constant coastwide commercial quota of 11.53 million pounds applies for 2019–2021, representing a 74% increase from 2018. Our state quota for 2020 is anticipated to actually increase by about 45,000 pounds from 2019 (741,532 pounds) due to reductions for overages that applied to the 2019 fishery. The increase to the quotas beginning in 2019 did not take effect until mid-year, making it difficult for the Massachusetts fishery to fully capitalize on the change. About 73% of the 2019 quota was harvested (roughly 540,000 pounds). Public hearings will be held this winter to determine whether state regulations should be modified in response to the increased quota of fluke. 

Tautog: 62,797 pounds (MA quota)

Massachusetts’ 2020 tautog quota will be marginally reduced by a slight harvest overage in the prior year. The 2019 fishery’s quota was set at the baseline amount of 64,753 pounds, of which 103% was landed (66,709 pounds). 2020 marks the first year of mandatory tagging of all commercial harvested tautog along the Atlantic coast.

By Nichola Meserve, Fisheries Policy Analyst

Key Actions for 2020 Commercial Quota Outlook

Division of Marine Fisheries 

The Division of Marine Fisheries manages the state’s commercial and recreational saltwater fisheries and oversees other services that support the marine environment and fishing communities.