- Division of Marine Fisheries
Fisheries Relief Provided through the 2020 CARES Act and Other Assistance Programs
This past spring, DMF responded rapidly to the availability of federal funding through the CARES Act to provide relief to the beleaguered fishing and seafood industry. With critical input from industry-based working groups, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to distribute CARES relief funding to fishermen and seafood processors, with all payments issued by mid-November. The federal government recently announced another $300 million that will be distributed to states in early 2021 for fishing and seafood relief. DMF plans to reconvene the working groups to aid in the distribution of this next round of congressionally approved funding.
The Return of “the Blob” Monitoring the Formation and Movements of a Hypoxic Water Mass in Cape Cod Bay
During September 2019, lobster fishers in the southern portion of Cape Cod Bay hauled up a nasty surprise—hundreds of pounds of dead lobsters, crabs, and finfish. DMF quickly learned that these deaths were caused by a severe hypoxia event; the bottom waters in the region did not have enough oxygen to sustain the life of those animals that couldn’t move away, like those stuck in the traps (See DMF News 2019 Q3/4 for more background). Determined to avoid this situation in the future, DMF and several fishermen from the affected area talked about developing a monitoring program so we could detect the formation of another hypoxic event, allowing fishermen to move their gear away from the affected area. This was the beginning of the Cape Cod Bay Study Fleet.
2021 Quota Outlook
Click below to read more about the quota outlook for the following species: Atlantic herring, Atlantic menhaden, black sea bass, bluefish, horseshoe crab, scup, spiny dogfish, striped bass, summer flounder, and tautog.
Consumer Preferences for Local and Fully Traceable New England Haddock
DMF’s Seafood Marketing Program provided Dr. Joshua Weirsma and Michael Carroll a grant last year to develop and implement a consumer preference survey to better understand the value of local haddock and traceability labels.
Joint Ghost Gear Recovery Project on Stellwagen Bank
Derelict fishing gear is well known to create entanglement hazards for marine life. Such is the case with gear aboard the F/V Patriot, a small dragger that sank 14 miles off Gloucester in January 2009. While the vessel is intact and lying on its starboard side in 100’ of water within the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, over time, its trawl net has loosened from its reel and billows out across the stern, and additional pieces of derelict netting have also been snagged.
“Ropeless” Fishing: DMF’s Role in this Burgeoning Technology
In recent years, scientists and conservationists have called for the broad-scale use of ropeless fishing systems to prevent entanglement of the endangered North Atlantic right whale. As the population has continued to decline, those calls have gotten louder. The most recent population estimate for right whales is 366 individuals—much lower than anticipated—and the majority of right whale serious injury and mortalities are still caused by entanglement in fishing gear and ship strikes.
DMF Shellfish Program Adapts to Pandemic Challenges to Provide Critical Management
DMF’s Shellfish Program has risen to the challenge of managing one of the nation’s most productive shellfisheries during the ongoing national pandemic. Adept at emergency response, staff provided uninterrupted essential services to program partners and the public. Resources have focused on core program functions including classification of growing areas, laboratory services, aquaculture, contaminated harvest management, restoration, and administration.
MSI Update: A Strategic Plan for Massachusetts Shellfish Coming Soon
Over the next few months, a strategic plan is being written to improve all things “shellfish” in Massachusetts. This effort, known as the Massachusetts Shellfish Initiative (MSI), was funded with a federal grant to “maximize the economic, environmental, and social benefits of Massachusetts’ shellfish resources, built with input from shellfish stakeholders across the state.” This is a once in a generation opportunity for government agencies and stakeholders to exchange ideas while making recommendations for improved programs, policies, or rules governing shellfish.
Diadromous Fish Update
DMF’s Diadromous Fish Project maintained a nearly routine schedule this year to monitor river herring, shad, eel, and smelt populations and work on fishways despite the challenge of the pandemic.
Port Profile Report Nearing Completion
In 2019, DMF awarded the Urban Harbors Institute (UHI) at the University of Massachusetts Boston a Seafood Marketing Program grant to complete a research project detailing the commercial fishing activity, existing infrastructure, and infrastructure needs of the commercial fishing industry in the coastal municipalities of Massachusetts. Led by UHI, the project has been a collaborative effort involving DMF and the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. The report, “Port by Port: Profiles and Analysis of the Massachusetts Commercial Fishery,” is nearing completion and will be published early in 2021.
Several DMF staff were awarded the Department of Fish and Game’s Pride and Performance award.
Anticipated Rule Making for the Winter of 2021
Anticipated rulemaking for winter of 2021 will include: final protected species regulations; draft regulations affecting recreational fisheries, including the circle hook requirement for striped bass; and Draft Regulations Affecting Commercial Fisheries.
During the period of July 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020 the following regulatory changes were enacted by DMF after public hearings and Marine Fishery Advisory Commission approval, or by the Director under his declaratory and emergency authorities.