Selected tag(s): Sectors

NMFS, NOAA & NE Fishery Management Council Work Together to Address Initial Hurdles of Groundfish Sectors

Julie Wormser, New England & Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for EDF Oceans program.

Julie Wormser, New England & Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for EDF Oceans program.

Sector management has been in place in the New England fishery now for several months, and while there are still some issues to be worked out, preliminary data show some positive results. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), fishing industry and the New England Fishery Management Council are all working together to address some of the initial hurdles and to help sectors operate more smoothly.

For starters, on Thursday the Council unanimously agreed to establish accumulation limits for the groundfish fishery. Once the cap is in place, this will benefit small boats and fishing communities because there will no longer be excess accumulation by a small group of individuals. This will make it easier for small boats to continue to fish profitably.

As reported at the Council meeting, the first three months of sector operations resulted in (May 1 – August 15): 

  • Fishermen earning more money for less fishing under the new system. In 2010, landings are down compared to 2009. Only 85.8 percent of total landings last year were landed this year (for the same period of time). Meanwhile, revenues are up 112.4 percent.
  • Sector fishermen are avoiding weak stocks and targeting robust stocks. The ratio of Georges Bank cod to Georges Bank haddock (in metric tons) in 2009 was 1121:1532. In 2010, it was 743:2768.
  • Landings of Gulf of Maine winter flounder, a stock at very low abundance, are being effectively avoided under sectors. In 2009, 66 metric tons were landed. In 2010, 32 metric tons were landed.

Other developments include:

  • Sectors are more effective than the old days-at-sea policy and more people are getting out of the common pool and into sectors as a result. NMFS announced this week that 822 permits have enrolled in sectors for 2011, an 8 percent increase from this year, representing 98 percent of annual catch limits.
  • Responding to industry requests, NMFS/NOAA committed at the Sept. 9 groundfish committee meeting to immediately improve the weekly information flow between the agency and sector managers.
  • Earlier this week, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Eric Schwaab announced plans to conduct a regional audit of the fishery management process in New England, to help improve relationships between key stakeholders and to help sectors operate more smoothly.
  • Also this week, Commerce Secretary Locke announced that $3 million in federal grants would be made available for cooperative research that will help fishermen develop new equipment to prevent bycatch in the New England region.
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3 Months In: New Bedford Standard Times Provides Insight into the Progress of Catch Shares in New England

Julie Wormser, NE Regional Director for EDF Oceans program.

Julie Wormser, NE Regional Director for EDF Oceans program.

This past Sunday, the New Bedford Standard Times published a set of three articles that gave insight into the progress of sectors (group catch shares) in Massachusetts. 

There is good news in the articles:

  • The fishermen who are fishing are seeing higher revenues, while others are waiting for prices to increase, a strategy they are free to employ under this system.
  • Sectors such as the one in New Bedford, managed by David deOliveira, are working together to manage their allocations of scarce stocks to “keep everyone fishing.”
  • Leasing allocations is of real value financially to fishermen considering retirement.

The articles also highlight improvements to the sector system that can and should be made as well as the challenges associated with low catch limits, which is entirely unrelated to catch shares. Many of these issues are currently being discussed by the industry, the New England Fisheries Management Council, and conservation groups. 

Many opportunities identified in the articles are a function of how the catch share was designed.  Catch shares can be designed to accommodate the communities that depend on fisheries. 

Catch limits

As Don Cuddy’s article points out, “Many fishermen believe their economic woes are not a result of sectors or any particular management system but from catch limits that they believe are set artificially low.”

The 2010 catch limits were developed based on NOAA’s best available science. But carefully targeted investments in science and scientific processes – including those outlined by Senators Kerry and Snowe in their recent appropriations request — can provide relatively quick improvement in assessments of key stocks, and may well increase allocation of certain stocks.

There are several design elements that can help the fleet through times of low catch limits.  For example, the Pacific groundfish fishery held back ten percent of the quota for “adaptive management” and has already dipped into that quota to provide additional allocations of a particularly weak stock—canary rockfish—for fishermen who lacked enough to legally fish for other species. 


In Steve Urbon’s NBST piece, he discusses the “consolidation of the industry.”  While that is a concern, it has to be weighed against the consolidation of the fleet that was occurring under the previous Days-At-Sea (DAS) management system.

In the New England groundfish fishery, in 2001, 1,100 active boats used 65,347 groundfish DAS for an average of 60 DAS per active vessel.  In 2007, 574 active boats used 32,804 DAS for an average of 57 DAS per active vessel.   As the number of days fishermen were allowed out on the water dropped dramatically, so too, did the number of boats fishing.

There are design elements in catch share systems around the world that can alleviate some of the consolidation concerns while supporting fleet diversity, smaller ports, and small-scale fishermen with less access to capital. 

For example, quota accumulation caps could be used to limit the amount of fish that any one participant has access to.  The Interspecies Committee of the New England Fishery Management Council voted unanimously at its April 2010 meeting to recommend to the full Council that accumulation caps be developed and implemented for the 20 groundfish stocks managed under sectors.  This action can help protect the smaller boats by preventing the fleet from being dominated by a few big players.

Limiting permit transferability, ownership and use is also used to achieve specific objectives.  For example, some catch share systems require a certain percentage of the harvest to be landed in specific ports to protect the shoreside infrastructure.  Other fisheries require quota owners to be on board in order to catch their share in order to discourage corporations from acquiring large amounts of quota.   

Moving forward

Much of New England’s fishing community has struggled over the past several decades.  Regulations meant to bring back once-abundant cod, flounders and other groundfish have instead squeezed the fleet’s profitability.

Sectors can help the New England groundfishery move towards an increase in fish populations; an increase in per-boat revenues; a dramatic reduction in bycatch and an increase in the use of sustainable fishing practices.

The New Bedford Standard Times has raised important questions and opportunities for improvement in the groundfish fishery.  Now is the time to make refinements to New England’s groundfish sectors.  There are many options and the best outcomes will likely occur when all stakeholders – fishermen, shoreside businesses, conservation groups, legislators, and Council members — participate in the process with the shared goal of creating a fishery with healthy fish stocks and thriving fishing communities.

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A Vision for the New England Fleet

Brett Tolley’s letter-to-the-editor published in the Gloucester Times last week draws attention to the excellent work that the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA) and others did to understand and communicate a strong vision for the New England fishing fleet.  NAMA gathered stakeholders from all parts of the fishing industry as part of this two year process.  The results call for a “diverse, economically viable and environmentally sustainable fleet”.  As the New England Fishery Management Council continues to consider accumulation caps and other design improvements to sectors under the groundfish management plan, there is an opportunity to make this vision a reality.

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Sectors are Helping Small Fishing Communities Get Access to Groundfish in Maine

Sectors, the catch share management system adopted in New England, have opened up the door to groundfishing in Down East Maine. According to the Bar Harbor Times, until sectors came into effect May 1, it had been more than 15 years since groundfish had been caught and landed in commercial numbers in the eastern Gulf of Maine. The article tells one fisherman’s story of how sectors have allowed him to get back into the groundfishing industry.

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New England Auction Managers Question Reports of Positive First Week Under Catch Shares

As published by John Sackton on SeafoodNews.com:

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS, May 12, 2010 – New Bedford, Boston, and Gloucester Auction owners question reports that suggest the first week of New England Fisheries under catch share managment were good.

In a May 11, 2010 report on the first week of landing reports under catch shares, Seafood News reported that offshore boats are thriving under new catch share rules in New England with regional landings up 4% in the first week.

While Seafood News’ reporting of the numbers is accurate, the owners of the New Bedford, Boston, and Gloucester Seafood Display Auctions told Saving Seafood that the positive numbers mask the current realities and challenges facing fishermen.

Larry Ciulla of the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction told Saving Seafood that dayboats are not fishing. He noted that in a typical year, the first week of the fishery brings in 150,000 – 200,000 lbs. of grounfish, but this year only 30,000 lbs. were landed during the first week. He also noted that many vessels went out during the last week in April to use up allocations under the old system, and landed that product during the first week of May.

Richie Canastra of the New Bedford and Boston auctions also said that many vessels went out at the end of April with the specific intention of fishing under the old rules. He noted that vessels go out at the end of April and come in during early May in order to supply restaurant and market demand for seafood that spikes over Mothers’ Day weekend.

Both Mr. Ciulla and Mr. Canastra pointed out that none of the boats that landed during the first week of May had fished entirely under the Sector regime. All of the landings reported during the first week of May included fish caught in April under the old system. The first landing of fish caught entirely under the new system at the Gloucester auction occurred during the day on May 11. At the New Bedford Auction, the first vessel landing with product caught entirely under the new system was expected late overnight on May 11-12.

Both Mr. Ciulla and Mr. Canastra indicated that an accurate comparison of data between this year’s landings under the new system and last year’s landings under the former system cannot be made until a full week has lapsed during which all landings are of catches caught under the new system.

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Offshore Boats Thriving Under New Catch Share Rules in New England; Regional Landings Up 4 Percent 1st Week

Encouraging news from John Sackton at SeafoodNews.com on the implementation of sectors in New England:

New England fishermen offload

New England fishermen offload

SEAFOOD.COM NEWS by John Sackton – May 11, 2010 – Catch shares have come to New England as of May 1st, and contrary to reports of disaster, landings overall are up across the region.

In the first week of May last year (2009), total landings were 981,000 lbs. This year, landings the first week of May totaled 1,020,000 lbs., an increase of 4%, according to the NMFS weekly New England landing summaries. These figures were calculated by comparing the NMFS Weekly Auction report year to date totals for the week ending April 30th, 2010, and May 7th, 2010.

By using the change in the year to date figures for this single week, it is possible to get NMFS’ figures for landings through the Auction for this week in 2009 and the same week in 2010. Both Gloucester and New Bedford saw higher landings in 2010. For Gloucester, 331,000 lbs of fish went through the auction, vs. 249,000 for the same week in 2009. For New Bedford, 689,000 lbs. went through the auction this year, vs. 490,000 for the same week last year. In percentage terms, Gloucester is up 33%, and New Bedford is up 40.6%. The reason that the regional totals are not higher is that in 2009, there were landings recorded for one day in Boston, but in 2010, no landings were made this week in Boston.

So, whatever else is happening in New England, the fleet is landing more fish. Also, reports from boat owners and the auctions show some spectacular results. For example, Carlos Rafael, the largest fleet owner in New England, runs 29 groundfish boats out of New Bedford.

New Bedford Fisherman

New Bedford Fisherman

Last week, he was crying crocodile tears, saying “I don’t have enough fish” to the New Bedford Standard Times. Actually, Carlos has landing rights to about 12.28 million lbs. of fish, about 9% of the total New England landings. Most of his fleet is believed to be in the Northeast Sector 9, managed by his daughter, which has allocations of 13.8 million lbs, while additional quota could also be in the Northeast sectors 7 and 8, which also have other boats from New Bedford.

What happened to Carlos during the first week of the program: he landed the highest grossing groundfish trip ever in New Bedford. One of his vessels came in with a gross stock of over $179,000 for one trip. The boat landed haddock, cod, yellowtail, dabs, blackback etc., and because the vessel could keep everything it caught of legal size, the efficiency of the vessel skyrocketed.

It is true that at that rate, Carlos may not need all of his 29 vessels, but on the other hand, his business will be much more profitable this year, as he can determine whether to quickly catch his quota in a few months, or to spread out his trips. But in any case, each trip he is now landing under the new system will be bigger and more profitable than under the old system of trip limits and discards.

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