Commercial fishing regulations

You can learn about the regulations that govern commercial fishing in the documents attached below. Regulations tables were updated on September 20, 2017.

The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) works hard to keep these regulations tables accurate and up to date. This is an unofficial copy. The Secretary of State maintains the official copy of the 322 CMR. You can buy an official copy from the state bookstore. For more information on ordering a copy of 322 CMR, visit the Secretary of State website.

 

 

 

Commercial finfish regulations

Species Fishery Season Size limit Possession Limit
American eel (1) All Jan 01 - Dec 31 9 in. no limit
Black sea bass (2) Weirs Jan 01 - Dec 31 12 in.  no daily limit
  All gears except weirs Jan 01 - Mar 31 12 in. 100 lb.
  Fish pots Jul 09 - quota dep.* 12 in. 400 lb.
  Hook & line Jul 09 - quota dep.* 12 in. 200 lb.
  Mobile gear Jul 09 - quota dep.* 12 in. 200 lb.
Bluefish All Jan 01 - quota dep.* no limit 5,000 lb.
Cod (3) (4) North of Cape Cod Jan 01 - Dec 31 19 in. 200 lb.
  East & South of Cape Cod Jan 01 - Dec 31 19 in. 1,000 lb.
Dab (plaice) (3) All Jan 01 - Dec 31 12 in. no limit
Fluke (5) P1: Nets Jan 01 - Jan 31 14 in. prohibited
  P1: Nets Feb 01 - Apr 22 14 in. w/o LOA 500 lb.
  P1: Nets Feb 01 - Apr 22 14 in. w/ LOA 1,000 lb. per week
  P2: Nets Apr 23 - Jun 09 14 in. 100 lb.
  P2: Longlines Apr 23 - Jun 09 14 in. 100 lb.
  P2: Handlines or rod & reel Apr 23 - Jun 09 14 in. prohibited
  P2: Nets Jun 10 - Jul 18 14 in. 300 lb.
  P2: Longlines Jun 10 - Jul 18 14 in. 200 lb.
  P2: Handlines or rod & reel Jun 10 - Jul 18 14 in. 200 lb.
Haddock (3) All Jan 01 - Dec 31 16 in. no limit
Horseshoe crab (6) Biomedical Jan 01 - Dec 31 7 in. 1,000 crabs
  Mobile gear Jan 01 - quota dep. 7 in. 300 crabs
  Other gears Jan 01 - quota dep.  7 in. 400 crabs
Illex squid (7) All Jan 01 - quota dep. no limit no limit
Longfin squid (loligo) (7) All Jan 01 - Apr 30 no limit no limit
  All May 01 - Jul 09 no limit no limit
  All Jul 10 - Aug 31 no limit no limit
  All Sept 01 - quota dep. no limit no limit
Menhaden (8) Open access Jan 01 - quota dep. no limit 6,000 lb.
  Limited access Jan 01 - quota dep. no limit 125,000 lb. until 85% of quota harvested
25,000 lb. until 95% of quota harvested
6,000 lb. until 100% of quota harvested
Monkfish (3) (9) All Jan 01 - Dec 31 17 in. 536 lb. tails, 1,560 lb. whole
Ocean pout (3) N/A N/A N/A prohibited
Pollock (3) All Jan 01 - Dec 31 19 in. no limit
Redfish (3) All Jan 01 - Dec 31 7 in. no limit
Scup (10) Winter I Jan 01 - Apr 30 9 in. 50,000 lb.
  Fish weir May 01 - quota dep. 9 in. no daily limit
  Trawlers May 01 - quota dep. 9 in. 10,000 lb. weekly limit
  Non-trawl May 01 - May 31 9 in. 800 lb.
  Non-trawl Jun 01 - Jun 30 9 in. 400 lb.
  Non-trawl Jul 01 - quota dep. 9 in. 1,500 lb.
  Winter II Nov 01 - quota dep. 9 in. TBD
Smelt Hook & line only Jun 16 - Mar 14 no limit 50 fish
Smooth dogfish All gears but longline Jan 01 - Dec 31 no limit 100 lb.
Spiny dogfish All  May 01 - quota dep. no limit 6,000 lb.
Striped bass (11) Boat & lobster permits fishing from vessel named on the permit Jun 26 - Aug 31 34 in. 15 fish
  All other fishing activity Jun 26 - Aug 31 34 in. 2 fish
Tautog All Sep 01 - quota dep. 16 in. 40 fish
Weakfish All Jan 01 - Dec 31 16 in. 100 lb.
Windowpane (3) N/A N/A N/A prohibited
Winter flounder (3) Gulf of Maine Jan 01 - Dec 31 12 in. 500 lb.
  Southern New England Jan 01 - Dec 31 12 in. 50 lb.
Witch flounder (3) All Jan 01 - Dec 31 13 in. 750 lb.
Wolffish (3) N/A N/A N/A prohibited
Yellowtail flounder (3) All Jan 01 - Dec 31 12 in. 250 lb.

Notes:

* May be subject to change for 2017 based on Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission approval of emergency regulations on June 15, 2017. 

Unless weekly aggregate limits apply, all trip limits apply per calendar day or per trip, whichever is longer. For quota-managed species, the trip limit additionally applies to the person, the permit holder, or the vessel regardless of how many permits may be held. 

1) American eels are subject to regulation by the Division and the municipality. Please consult local regulations.

2) Fish weirs are not subject to daily trip limits. However, the combined landings of all fish weirs are subject to a 15,000-pound annual sub-quota allocation. The fishery opens on the July 9 and remains open until the annual quota has been landed. Open fishing days are Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Thursday was added as of September 18, 2017. Black sea bass are to be measured from the tip of the snout or jaw to the farthest extremity of the tail, not including the tail filament.

3) Groundfish species are regulated under the federal Northeast Multispecies Management Plan and federal rules apply beyond state waters. Federal permit holders may land groundfish in accordance with federal rules. The trip limits listed apply to State Waters Groundfish Endorsement holders and federally-permitted vessels while fishing in state waters. Commercial fishermen who do not hold a State Waters Groundfish Endorsement or federal limited entry permit may take up to 25 pounds of regulated groundfish per day while fishing in state waters. Fishing for groundfish or with gears capable of catching groundfish in state waters is subject to various spatial/temporal closures, gear closures, and spawning closures. Please review 322 CMR 4.04, 4.06, 8.04, 8.05, 8.07, 8.09 and 12.04 for more details. 

4) It is illegal to harvest cod from portions of Massachusetts Bay during the period of Nov. 15 to Jan. 31 (Winter Cod Conservation Zone) and April 16 to July 21 (Spring Cod Conservation Zone). See 322 CMR 8.07 for more details.

5) The P1 daily trip limits for nets is 500 lbs or vessels may obtain a LOA to land 1,000 lbs per week. The P1 trip limit is reduced to 100 lbs for all participants once 25% of the quota is landed. The P2 daily trip limit for nets during the squid fishery (April 23-June 9) is 100 lbs. P2 open fishing days after the squid fishery (June 10-Quota dep.) are Sunday-Thursday. During this period, it is unlawful to land fluke on Friday and Saturday. Year-round, it is unlawful to land fluke during the period of 8 p.m.-6 a.m.

6) A special permit for biomedical harvest is required to participate in the biomedical fishery. A bait fishery permit endorsement holder may not also hold a biomedical harvest special permit. All crabs harvested for biomedical purposes may only be sold to dealers authorized to purchase crabs harvested for biomedical purposes. After crabs are bled by the biomedical firm, harvesters must return the crabs to the area of harvest. All horseshoe crab harvest is subject to 5-day closures around new and full moons from late April through June. Mobile gear participants are subject to closed days on Fridays and Saturdays beginning on June 10. Mobile gear fishing regulations are subject to change in 2017.  

7) Illex and Longfin squid are regulated under the Atlantic Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish Management Plan. Seasons and limits may be adjusted by the federal government. Visit www.nmfs.noaa.gov for more details.

8) Any commercial fisherman may catch and land up to 6,000 pounds of menhaden per day. Commercial fishermen with a limited entry menhaden commercial permit endorsement may take menhaden under the higher trip limits described in the table above. These trip limits are adjusted based on quota availability. The 1,000-pound bycatch limit applies once 100% of the menhaden quota is taken and the fishery is closed. When the bycatch limit is in effect, menhaden landings cannot exceed 5% the total weight of the commercial catch. The use of nets within inshore waters is prohibited without an inshore net permit. The use of small bait nets of no more than 250 ft is authorized exempt from this prohibition. Consult 322 CMR 4.02 for more details.   

9) Monkfish may be processed at sea into tails and livers and landed as such products. Monkfish tails must be 11 inches in length, and the total weight of monkfish tails may not exceed 536 pounds. The weight of monkfish livers must not exceed 25% the weight of monkfish tails being landed or 10% the weight of the whole monkfish being landed.

10) Fish weirs are not subject to daily trip limits or closed fishing days. However, the combined landings of all fish weirs are subject to a 300,000-pound annual quota allocation. Trawlers may land scup 7 days per week. Hook and line and trap fishermen may land scup Sunday-Thursday during May; Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in June; and then 7 days per week beginning July 1. The Winter I and Winter II periods are managed by the federal government, and seasons and limits are set by NMFS and complemented by DMF.  

11) Striped bass may be taken by hook and line gear only. Netting, spearing, and snagging striped bass is prohibited (G.L. c. 130 §100B). High-grading and fillet striped bass is prohibited. Fishermen fishing under the authority of a commercial boat permit or lobster permit when fishing aboard the vessel named on the permit are subject to the 15-fish limit. However, fishermen fishing under the authority of a commercial boat permit or lobster permit when fishing from another location (e.g., shore or another vessel) are subject to the 2-fish limit. All Individual and Rod and Reel permit holders are subject to the 2-fish limit as well. The commercial striped bass open fishing days during the season are Monday and Thursday for all gear types. Possession limits apply to both permit holders, regardless of the number of permits held, and vessels, regardless of the number of permits on board.   

Additional Resources

Commercial lobster & crabs regulations

Species Closed season LCMA Min size Max size V-notch poss. Possession limit
Other Edible Crabs Jan 1 - Apr 30 All -- -- -- --
Blue Crabs (1) Jan 1 - Apr 30 All 5 in. -- -- 25 crabs per day
Cancer Crabs (2) Jan 1 - Apr 30 All 4 3/4 in. -- --

No Limit for Lobster Trap Fishermen

1,000 crabs per trip for non-trap fishermen

 Lobsters (3) * -- 1 3 1/4 in. 5 in. zero tolerance --
  -- 2 3 3/8 in. 5 1/4 in. 1/8 in. --
  -- 3 3 17/32 in. 6 3/4 in. 1/8 in. --
  -- OCC 3 3/8 in. --** 1/4 in.** --

Notes:

* Lobstermen permitted to fish in more than one LCMA must adhere to the most restrictive standards pertaining to minimum size, maximum size and v-notch possession standards of their permitted LCMAs.

** Federal permit holders must abide by the more restrictive federal rules of a 6 3/4 inch max gauge size and 1/8 inch with or w/out setal hairs v-notch definition.

1) Blue Crabs are measured across the shell from tip to tip of the posterior-most, longest spines along the lateral margins of the carapace. Any egg bearing crab or female crab with an egg mass or pouch must be returned to the water.

2) Cancer crabs refer to both the rock crab and Jonah crab species. The closed season applies to state waters only. The crabs are measured by carapace width. Egg bearing females must be returned to the water. Bycatch by net fishermen may not exceed the 1,000 crab limit, nor may it exceed 50% of the total catch by weight of all fish retained during the trip. Net fishermen are reminded that in order to possess and land cancer crabs in Massachusetts, they must hold a commercial lobster permit. 

3) Carapace length measured from the rear of eye socket parallel to the center line of the body shell to the rear of the bodyshell. All lobsters measuring less than the minimum legal carapace length must be returned to the waters from which taken. All lobsters must be measured immediately. Egg bearing females must be returned to the water.

Additional Resources

Commercial shellfish & sea urchin regulations

Species Closed season Possession limit Minimum size
Bay scallop (1) Apr 01 - Oct 1 10 Bu/day including Annual shells Well-defined growth line
Knobbed & channeled whelk (1) Dec 15 - Apr 14 for conch pot fishermen 1,000 lb mixed limit for draggers (CAP Holders) Legal size determined through use of 2 7/8" chute gauge and any orientation method of measurement.
Surf clam (3) (5) -- 200 Bu/Day or 400 Bu/48 hr 5" (wild), 1.5" (aquaculture reared)
Oyster (5) -- -- 3" (wild), 2.5" (aquaculture reared)
Softshell clam (2) -- -- 2"
Sea scallop (4) -- 200 meat lbs or 2,000 lbs shell-on 3.5" height
Quahog (5) -- 40 Bu/Day 1" thickness (wild), 7/8" thickness(aquaculture reared and must be distributed out-of-state after primary sale to MA Wholesale Dealer)
Sea urchin Scuba:  May 01 - Aug 31
Mobile Gear: Mar 01 - Oct 31
--
2" exclude spines

(1) All chute gauges must be made of rigid material and measure at least 6" length by 2 7/8" internal width by 1 1/2" wall height. The chute gauge may not be modified in any manner that may affect measuring whelks. This does not include fastening the chute to a gunwale or culling table. Using the chute gauge, whelks are to be measured operculum facing down and as flat as possible on the bottom of the gauge and the siphonal canal in any orientation to the side walls of the gauge. Any whelks that fit through the chute gauge in this orientation are considered sub-legal and must be immediately returned to the sea. When measuring whelks with this method, the animals may not be manipulated in any manner that may affect proper gauging. Dealers may possess sub-legal sized whelks provided the whelks were imported from a state with a different minimum size. All containers of whelks must bear a shellfish tag and if sub-legal sized whelks are present that shellfish tag must demonstrate the whelks were harvested in another state. 


(2) subject to modification by town regulations


(3) Federal surf clam permit holders may possess and land sub-legal surf clams provided surf clams were caught in federal waters and gear is stowed when transiting state-waters. Surf clam dealers may also possess sub-legal sized surf clams provided the surf clams were lawfully landed by federal permit holders or were imported from a state with different minimum size. All containers of surf clams must retain their original shellfish harvester tags and the origin of all containers of surf clams must be determinable through a federal trip report or bill of lading. 


(4) Pursuant to the authority found in 322 CMR 7.01(7), see permit conditions issued to Coastal Access Permit holders

(5) The minimum sizes for surf clams, quahogs, and oysters differ if they are aquaculture-raised. Aquaculture-raised surf clams may be harvested and sold at a 1 1/2" minimum size, and aquaculture raised oysters may be harvested and sold at a 2 1/2" minimum size. Aquaculture raised quahogs may be harvested at a 7/8" minimum size and sold to a Massachusetts primary buyer. However, all subsequent sales must be to entities outside the Commonwealth. All containers with non-conforming aquaculture raised shellfish must have the words "Aquaculture Reared" or "Farm Raised" on the shellfish tag. 

Minimum size measured by longest diameter. These sizes are subject to change, contact the Division for further information.

The taking of shellfish, eels and seaworms is subject to the control of the cities and towns. Consult local authorities for regulations and permits. However, the Division of Marine Fisheries has authority to regulate surf clams, ocean quahogs, & shellfish taken from certain contaminated areas.

Sale of shellfish: To sell shellfish, an individual must possess a town/city commercial shellfish permit, a state commercial fisherman permit endorsed for shellfish, and a shellfish ID card issued by the Division of Marine Fisheries. Sales of shellfish may only be made to licensed wholesale dealers authorized to purchase shellfish.

Feedback

Tell us what you think