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Are fishing vessels participating in a different mix of fisheries?

Indicator: Fishery Diversification

Key Findings

Participation in a mix of fisheries is common practice for fishermen. Since the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program began, non-groundfish have accounted for an increasingly larger proportion of the total landings and revenues of limited access groundfish vessels. By 2013, non-groundfish accounted for 83 percent of the landings of limited access groundfish vessels, as compared to an average of 74 percent during the three years preceding the implementation of the catch share program. However, in most of the non-groundfish fisheries for which data are available, the proportional level of landings attributable to limited access groundfish vessels did not increase appreciably from 2010 through 2012. Consequently, the “spillover effect” on non-groundfish fisheries during the first three years of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program appears to have been minimal.

Interactive Charts

Metrics

This indicator shows the degree to which catch share fishery vessels also participate in other fisheries.

Analysis

Baseline: Before Catch Share Program

Adaptation to changing conditions has long been a hallmark of New England’s fishing industry. When necessary, fishermen changed target species, gear and fishing areas to remain in the industry. In some areas of the region, a fisherman might participate in a combination of lobster, shellfish, shrimp, and groundfish fishing. Over the years, this traditional flexibility has been restrained somewhat by regulatory requirements associated with permits and limited access programs. But groundfish fishermen have continued to turn to other fisheries to supplement their incomes, especially as declining catches in the groundfish fishery (Groundfish Landings) made it increasingly difficult to rely on that fishery for the majority of their livelihood.

The non-groundfish species targeted have typically shown distinct regional patterns. For instance, in southern New England, including New Bedford, Chatham, and Point Judith, monkfish, skate, and squid were the primary target species apart from groundfish. In Gloucester, Portland, and Port Clyde, however, shrimp is a prominent fishery. Spiny dogfish is a target fishery for several vessels in Gloucester, Chatham, and Scituate as well.

Data for 2007 through 2009 suggest that the level of dependence of limited access groundfish vessels on non-groundfish fisheries varied across vessel size categories. During those years, vessels in the smallest size category (less than 30 feet in length) typically relied the most on non-groundfish landings for their revenues, while vessels between 30 feet and 50 feet in length relied on non-groundfish the least. Within the various fisheries, there was little proportional change during the baseline years.

During Catch Share Program

The Northeast Multispecies Sector Program creates opportunities for fishermen to expand their activity beyond groundfish. For example, fishermen can participate in non-groundfish fisheries with the assurance that they can harvest their portion of their sector’s annual catch entitlement (ACE) when circumstances are optimal. After implementation of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program, the percentage of total groundfish vessel landings and gross revenues accounted for by non-groundfish began an upward trend (see charts above: “Non-Groundfish Landings of Limited Access Groundfish Vessels” and “Non-Groundfish Revenues of Limited Access Groundfish Vessels”). By 2013, non-groundfish accounted for 83 percent of the landings of limited access groundfish vessels, as compared to an average of 74 percent during the three years preceding the implementation of the catch share program. The percentage of total revenues derived from non-groundfish increased from an average of 69 percent to 79 percent.

That said, in most of the non-groundfish fisheries for which data are available, the proportional level of gross revenues attributable to limited access groundfish vessels showed no appreciable increase after the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program began (see chart above: “Proportion of Total Revenues in Selected Non-Groundfish Fisheries”). For example, limited access groundfish vessels accounted for a smaller percentage of total spiny dogfish revenues from 2010 through 2012 than in 2009 even though the Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils boosted the Atlantic coast dogfish quota from 12 million pounds to 35.6 million pounds. The spiny dogfish revenues of limited access groundfish vessels increased from 2010 through 2012, but by much less than the increase in the quota during those years.

For a number of non-groundfish species, the revenue increase experienced by limited access groundfish vessels was due not to an increase in landings but to an increase in ex-vessel price. For instance, the increase of $11.2 million in scallop gross revenues in 2010 over the 2009 value (which accounted for about 39 percent of the increase in non-groundfish revenues in 2010) was the result of average scallop prices rising from $6.39 to $8.62 per pound. Scallop landings between 2009 and 2010 declined from 9.6 million pounds to 8.5 million pounds. Prices were high as a result of strong global demand and a diminished supply from other competing, scallop-producing nations, including Japan. The $18.7 million (26 percent) increase in sea scallop revenues from 2010 to 2011 occurred because of an increase in the ex-vessel price as well as higher sea scallop landings. In 2011, Closed Area 1 and Closed Area 2 on Georges Bank were temporarily opened to allow fishermen to harvest their scallop allotments. In 2012, scallops were again a strong economic driver because the 2012 Japanese tsunami created a severe shortage of Japanese scallops, which, in turn, generated a 30 percent increase in the price of American scallops. In 2013, sea scallop landings by limited access groundfish vessels fell about 26.5 percent, but this decrease was partially offset by a 15 percent price increase. Even though 2010 through 2012 were exceptional years for the sea scallop fishery and limited access groundfish vessels were among the beneficiaries of the high scallop prices, the proportion of the total amount of sea scallops landed by limited access groundfish vessels was similar to the years prior to implementation of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program.

The Northeast Multispecies Sector Program allows sectors to request regulatory exemptions through their annual or bi-annual operations plans submitted to NMFS (Northeast Multispecies Sector Program). Limited access groundfish vessels in sectors used this provision in 2013 to acquire access to two portions of the Southern New England Nantucket Lightship Closed Area in order to increase opportunities to harvest non-groundfish stocks, such as monkfish, dogfish, and skates, while minimizing impacts to overfished groundfish stock such as Georges Bank cod and yellowtail flounder. However, sector vessel landings of both monkfish and skates decreased in 2013; data on dogfish catches in that year are currently unavailable.

Data Gaps and Limitations

Data on the amount and value of individual non-groundfish species caught by limited access groundfish vessels are currently incomplete.

Information Sources

Hall-Arber, M. et al. 2001. New England’s Fishing Communities. MIT Sea Grant College Program. Cambridge, MA.

Kitts, A. et al. 2011. 2010 Final Report on the Performance of the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery, (May 2010-April 2011), 2nd Edition. National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document 11-19. Woods Hole, MA. Available online: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/publications/crd/

Mendelson, M. and J. Gribbon Joyce. 2011. New England Groundfish Crew Rapid Assessment Summary Report. National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Woods Hole, MA.

Murphy, T. et al. 2012. 2011 Final Report on the Performance of the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery, (May 2011-April 2012). National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document 12-30. Woods Hole, MA. Available online: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/publications/crd/

Murphy, T. et al. 2013. 2012 Final Report on the Performance of the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery, (May 2012-April 2013). National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document 14-01. Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Available online: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/publications/crd/

National Marine Fisheries Service. 2013. Annual Commercial Landing Statistics. Available online: http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st1/commercial/

Updated: October 2015

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