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Are fishing vessels participating in a different mix of fisheries?

Indicator: Fishery Diversification

Key Findings

  • Historically, many groundfish vessels have had permits for, and participated in, other fisheries.
  • 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 2013. Consequently, the spillover effecton non-groundfish fisheries during the first four 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.

In Their Own Words

Although some of the quantitative data analyzed for this indicator exhibited clear trends, it was challenging to discuss the relationships between observed data trends and implementation of the respective catch share programs, especially in the Northeast. The Measuring the Effects of Catch Shares project team believed that those stakeholders most involved in the fishery, either as active participants or as representatives of an involved coalition of participants (e.g., sector managers in the Northeast), would be able to provide insight and help to explain trends seen in the existing quantitative data. The following quotes were selected to illustrate some of those perspectives and highlight trends such as effects on small vessels, the effect of avoiding “choke stocks,” fleet diversification, and product quality. The individual quotes do not represent findings or conclusions for this indicator, nor do they represent a consensus across any category of participants.

“The shift has been towards less and less participation, particularly at the smaller end of the scale. Folks who are diversified operators, who might have groundfished part of the year or as part of their portfolio are becoming less and less engaged in the fishery and having fewer and fewer opportunities.”

~ NGO

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 (Financial Viability of the Fishery: 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 was a prominent fishery. Spiny dogfish was 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 revenue, while vessels between 30 feet and 50 feet in length relied on non-groundfish the least.

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 catch share program, the percentage of the total landings and gross revenues of limited access groundfish vessels accounted for by non-groundfish began an upward trend (see charts above: “NonGroundfish 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.

However, the available data do not show that the additional fishing flexibility created by the Northeast  Multispecies Sector Program led to a significant spillover effect on non-groundfish fisheries. In most major non-groundfish fisheries the proportional level of gross revenues attributable to limited access groundfish vessels showed no appreciable increase after the catch share 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. In the case of the lobster fishery, limited access groundfish  vessels accounted for an average of eight percent of the total revenues from 2010 through 2013, compared to an average of 10 percent in the three years preceding catch share program implementation.

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, but 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 2013 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 value of sea scallops landings accounted for by limited access groundfish vessels has not changed appreciably since 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). Sector vessels 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, limited access groundfish vessels landings of both monkfish and skates decreased in 2013; data on dogfish catches in that year are currently unavailable.

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),. 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, MA. Available online: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/publications/crd/

Murphy, T. et al. 2015. 2013 Final Report on the Performance of the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery, (May 2013-April 2014). National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document 15-02. Woods Hole, MA. 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: August 2018

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