New England Fisheries

Let’s Talk Fish!

Fishing has always been a hot topic in New England. And why wouldn’t it be? The region’s economy was built on cod and other bottom-dwelling groundfish like haddock and flounder. From the Colonial times until today, these fish have been at the center of many a debate, but those debates have changed over time. And so have the venues where they are discussed: from dock talk about the best spots to fish, to online discussions about changes in regulations.

Regulatory change is no fish story though, and the latest one in New England seems to have created a “Great Divide” in the fishing industry. The new sector management system sets annual catch limits on groundfish and divides the available catch among fishing cooperatives, called sectors. This represents a huge change from the way the groundfish fishery used to be managed. And all change being difficult, the past year has been challenging for our region’s fishermen and the businesses that make up our coastal communities.

(Photo credit: Talking Fish Photo File)

Since the new sector system was introduced, there has been a very vocal segment of the industry that has dominated the public discourse. But behind this outcry, there are many fishermen who are making sectors work and who are quietly having the best fishing year they’ve seen in years. These fishermen don’t represent one facet of the industry: they hail from minor and major ports, they run smaller and larger vessels, and they fish in-shore and offshore.

The preliminary statistics are also demonstrating success – from keeping within the science-based catch limits (a conservation goal for sustainable fisheries) to increasing revenue for the industry overall as compared to last year (an economic goal for the industry to prosper).

We do not minimize the difficulties some fishermen are experiencing, and we know that there is much data still to be evaluated once the fishing year ends on April 30. This data analysis will give us more specifics and insight into exactly how the system is working – and what might be done to improve it.

However, we started to wonder why we weren’t hearing about any of the successes? Why is every story written or interview aired promoting doom-and-gloom? Why do things seem so lopsided?

We launched this blog to tell the stories that are not being heard, to share a different perspective on what is taking place in this fishery  and to encourage people to think hard about our shared public resources. It is important to conserve the fish these fishermen bring us for our dinner tables, while ensuring a sustainable fishery that will continue to contribute economic and cultural value to our fishing communities.

On these pages, you can expect a variety of contributors to share such content as:

•           Insight on policy developments affecting the fishery
•           Pointers to interesting articles and resources with context
•           Reporting from key meetings
•           Opinion on issues that we care about
•           Rebuttals to myths and misinformation
•           Updates on our own policy and advocacy initiatives
•           Data reporting and analysis
•           Science news and insight
•           Calls to action

Please stay tuned and share your comments with us frequently!

TalkingFish.org aims to increase people’s understanding of the scientific, financial and social aspects at work in New England’s fisheries. We honor the starring role that fishing has played in New England’s cultural and economic heritage, and we strive to be informative, evidence-based, pragmatic and compassionate in our communications and fact-sharing. We support our fishermen and want to ensure that our fisheries and coastal communities thrive for generations to come.


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