New England Fisheries

Fishermen to Council: Sectors are working; don’t make any drastic changes

Groundfish species (Picture credit: NOAA)

Samantha Caravello is the Program Assistant for CLF’s Ocean Conservation program.

“Stability” was the key word at last week’s workshop convened by the New England Fishery Management Council to discuss lessons learned from the groundfish fishery’s first year under the sector management system. The two-day meeting, held in Portland, Maine, brought together NEFMC members and staff, sector representatives, and members of the fishing community and public to share their experiences under the new management system and discuss ways the system could be improved going forward.

During the public comment portions of the workshop, almost all of the fishermen who spoke voiced their support for the sector management system, saying it gave them more control over their businesses. Fishermen also repeatedly stressed the importance of stability to their business operations, urging the Council to stay the course with sectors and give the industry time to finish adjusting to the new system.

Of course, even those who voiced their support for the sector system had suggestions for how to improve it. Many of these suggestions focused on increasing stability, such as preventing mid-season changes to catch allocation and improving data reconciliation between the sectors and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Fishermen and sector representatives also requested that the government improve communications, loosen restrictions on effort controls such as minimum fish sizes and closed areas, and construct a long-term plan for covering the cost of on-board monitors.

No one at the meeting claimed that the sector system is perfect, but no one called for it to be dismantled. The meeting was notably free of the angry rhetoric frequently seen in the media coverage of New England’s fishing industry. Instead, critics suggested improvements and acknowledged that the first year under sectors was an adjustment for fishermen and government agencies alike. Overall, the workshop was positive and constructive. The Council received valuable feedback, and looks forward to seeing improvements in sector management that will benefit New England’s groundfish fishery.


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