News  Quota Outlook for 2024

  • Division of Marine Fisheries

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

Atlantic Herring: 42.3 million pounds (Coastwide Quota)
The coastwide quota for herring is increasing for 2024 per the stock’s rebuilding plan. While still well below the levels set prior to the stock’s overfished determination (e.g., >200 million pounds during 2013-2017), the quota of 42.3 million pounds is roughly double that of 2023 (27.4 million pounds) and continues the upward trajectory from the quota’s lowest point of 9–10 million pounds in 2021–2022. The limit was derived from the most recent stock assessment for herring (data through 2021), which indicated the stock is still overfished (21% of the biomass target) but not experiencing overfishing (very low F of 31% of the overfishing limit), and hampered by continued poor recruitment. The coastwide limit is allocated among four management areas: 28.9% to Area 1A (inshore Gulf of Maine), 4.3% to Area 1B (offshore Gulf of Maine), 27.8% to Area 2 (south of Cape Cod), and 39% to Area 3 (Georges Bank).

Atlantic Menhaden: 10,838,902 pounds (MA quota)
Massachusetts is headed into 2024 with same menhaden quota a 2023. For 2023, the state saw a near doubling of its starting quota, due to the combined effects of a roughly 20% increase in the coastwide quota plus revised state-by-state allocations being implemented that increased MA’s share from 1.27% to 2.12%. The revised state shares were meant to better reflect recent menhaden distribution and fishery performance; the prior 10 years had witnessed increased resource availability in the northeast, with the states increasingly relying on quota transfers and harvest allowances outside of their quotas (i.e., bycatch and the “episodic event” quota set-aside). With the change to the states’ allocations and other interstate management plan provisions in 2023, DMF made a number of changes to our quota management approach meant to temper the pace of landings. The changes that were adopted to season, open days, and trip limits were heavily based on recent fishery performance; however, the menhaden fishery is by nature episodic in the northeast and distribution can fluctuate from year-to-year. While we have enjoyed consistent and prolonged nearshore availability of menhaden in recent years, there was a shift in the temporal and spatial distribution of menhaden this past year that reduced local abundance. This was likely influenced by environmental factors, such as the significant influx of freshwater into coastal habitat due to heavy rain events during the late spring and early summer. As a consequence, landings declined in 2023, and only about 27% of the 10.82-million pound quota was taken (less than 3 million pounds harvested). This is not a reflection of the overall menhaden stock status, which remains highly abundant. For 2024 and under the same quota, DMF is considering adding more flexibility into the management approach to allow the fleet to catch the quota under a wider range of stock dynamics.

Black Sea Bass: To Be Determined (MA quota)
Massachusetts’ baseline commercial quota for black sea bass is increasing by 25% or about 185,000 pounds for 2024—from 741,071 pounds to 926,338 pounds; however, part of this increase may be unavailable due to a state quota overage in 2023. The full coastwide accounting for 2023 is still in progress, but were MA’s full 2023 overage to be paid back in 2024, this would still result in a roughly 15% quota increase for 2024. The baseline quota increase reflects a 25% increase in the coastwide commercial quota. While the overall catch limit is equal to 2023, the projection for commercial discards in 2024 declined (based on recent trends), causing an increase in the harvestable portion of the commercial catch limit (i.e., the quota). The state-by-state quota allocation formula is influenced by stock distribution. At present, MA’s share of the coastwide quota is 15.4% (up from the original 13%). Massachusetts’ 2023 black sea bass fishery closed in mid-September. If catch rates are similar in 2024, the increased quota will provide additional access for the fishery into the early fall without any additional rule changes (hence none are being proposed).  

Bluefish: 198,205 pounds (MA quota)
The Massachusetts bluefish fishery will see a 40% decline in its quota for 2024. This is on account of a 43% decline in the coastwide quota. MA’s percent reduction is slightly less due to the ongoing 7-year phase-in of revised state-by-state allocations in which our state’s quota is increasing from the historical share of 6.71% to 10.12% based on the incorporation of more recent years’ landings into the allocation formula. We are in year three of the transition, putting our state share at 8.17%. The reduction in the coastwide quota results from the most recent stock assessment, which included revised data and methods, and caused the overall estimates of stock biomass to decline significantly. The biomass-based refence points were also adjusted down though, and the stock is on an increasing trend since being declared overfished in 2019. Biomass is now above the threshold, but the fishery will remain in its rebuilding plan until achieving the biomass target. MA’s 2023 bluefish fishery landed about 309,000 pounds of its 329,578-pound quota (94% quota utilization). The 2024 fishery may face an early closure with the reduction in the quota, depending on fish availability in 2024, fishing effort, and the potential for quota transfers from other states.

Horseshoe Crab: 140,000 bait crabs and 200,000 biomedical crabs (MA quotas)
Beginning in 2023 and continuing into 2024, Massachusetts’ long-standing commercial quota for horseshoe crabs harvested for bait purposes was reduced from 165,000 crabs to 140,000 crabs and the state’s first-ever commercial quota for horseshoe crabs harvested for biomedical purposes was set at 200,000 crabs. Placing a cap on biomedical harvest recognized the importance of limulus amebocyte lysate production for human health and safety while also eliminating the potential for uncontrolled growth in this sector which could negatively impact the resource moving forward. The specific biomedical quota was set slightly above 2022 harvest levels, which was offset by the reduction in the bait crab quota. Crabs harvested under the bait quota may be borrowed from bait dealers for bleeding by biomedical firms prior to sale to bait users, whereas crabs harvested under the biomedical quota are returned to the ocean immediately after bleeding by a biomedical firm. In 2023, the bait quota was taken earlier than usual and the fishery closed in early August; the biomedical fishery was expected to harvest its quota by year’s end.

Scup: 1,778,071 pounds (MA Summer Period quota)
At 21.15 million pounds, the 2024 coastwide commercial scup quota is rebounding to prior year levels following the dip to 14.01 million pounds in 2023. A new stock assessment indicating the stock remains at 2.5 times its target informed the setting of this quota. The seasonal and state-specific quotas are likewise increasing 51%. The Winter I (January–April) and Winter II (October–December) Periods, which are open to all states at federally set trip limits, receive 45.11% and 15.94% of the quota, respectively; this equates to 9.54 and 3.37 million pounds for 2023. The Summer Period fishery (May–September) receives 38.95% of the coastwide quota (8.23 million pounds for 2023), which is further distributed into state shares, with Massachusetts receiving 21.6%. No aspect of the commercial fishery is expected to be constrained by these quotas. For example, the 2023 Summer Period fishery is Massachusetts landed only about 550,000 pounds of scup. Public and private efforts are trying to increase market demand for this ample, yet underutilized, species.

Spiny Dogfish: To Be Determined (ME–CT Regional Quota)
The spiny dogfish fishery operates on a May 1–April 30 fishing year, and at this time, only one of the three management bodies that jointly manages this species has met to set the quota for the fishing year beginning May 1, 2024 (FY2024). In December, the Mid-Atlantic Council voted for a 10.7-million pound quota, down from 12.0 million pounds for FY2023; the New England Council and ASMFC meet in early 2024, after which time the quota will be finalized. The setting of the FY2024 quota is being informed by a new stock assessment for spiny dogfish completed this year, which includes significant data and modeling improvements from the prior assessment approach. The assessment concludes that biomass is near an all-time low, yet still slightly above a revised target level which takes into account the stock’s reduced productivity (as driven by slower growth and less large females in the population). Some states’ fisheries may face early closures in FY2024 under the pending quota cut, and there is industry concern about the fishery becoming economically unviable following repeated quota reductions. The Northern Region of which Massachusetts is part shares a 58% quota allocation.

Striped Bass: To Be Determined (MA quota)
A coastwide quota reduction is possible for the commercial striped bass fishery in 2024 under the interstate management plan. Draft Addendum II, for which two public hearings were held in Massachusetts in December 2023, proposes up to a 14.5% quota reduction to contribute (alongside restricted recreational measures) to lowering the overall fishing mortality rate to its target level and aid in stock rebuilding. A 14.5% reduction would lower MA’s quota from 735,240 pounds to 628,630 pounds. The ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board meets in late January 2024 to take final action on the addendum. While the last stock assessment showed that the existing management measures through 2021 were very likely to achieve stock rebuilding by the 2029 deadline, new projections—which the addendum is responding to—indicate additional restrictions are needed to stay on track. DMF will consider amendments to commercial fishing regulations (e.g., number of open days per week) in response to the anticipated quota reduction and recent fishery performance. The past two seasons have concluded with fishery closures in early August. On the plus side, there was not a quota overage in 2023 to account for in 2024. 

Summer Flounder: 599,507 (MA quota)
Massachusetts’ 2024 state quota for summer flounder is subject to a substantial 56% quota reduction. This reduction is the result of a 42% cut in the coastwide quota plus a reduced share of that quota for Massachusetts. The 2023 management track assessment indicated that the summer flounder stock, while not overfished, was experiencing overfishing in 2022. While the catch limits have not been exceeded in recent years, it appears the projections associated with the previous assessment were overly optimistic (causing the overfishing). The prior assessment overestimated stock biomass, which is also now trending downward given that the 2018 year class was much smaller than initially estimated and recruitment has been below average since 2011. With the coastwide quota being cut to 8.79 million pounds, Massachusetts’ allocation reverts to its historical share of 6.82% rather than the 8–9% received since the allocation formula was changed in 2021 amidst higher quota levels. Amendment 21 established equal allocations of 12.375% for any coastwide quota above 9.55 million pounds (quota below this amount remains allocated based on 1980-1989 landings, or 6.82% for MA). While greatly reduced from the state’s 2023 quota of roughly 1.36 million pounds, the impact on industry is not expected to be proportional due to recent quota underages. DMF will be proposing minor reductions to the trip limits for 2024 at public hearings this winter should there be industry input to slow quota consumption.

Tautog: 60,868 pounds (MA quota)
Massachusetts’ 2024 tautog quota will be slightly higher than in 2023 due to there being less of a prior-year quota overage to account for. The state’s baseline quota of 64,753 pounds has remained unchanged since 2008, but minor fluctuations in the effective quota are common. The combination of small quota, many fishery participants, variable weather conditions, and pot gear that needs time to be brought in, make for challenges with closing the fishery precisely upon full quota use. The 2023 quota of 55,541 pounds (after accounting for a 2022 quota overage) sustained the fishery from its opening on September 1 through October 13, several weeks shorter than typical, and the landings came in about 7% over quota. The next stock assessment for tautog, which could alter MA’s baseline quota, is scheduled for 2025.

  • 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.
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