Has the financial viability of the fishery changed?
Indicators: Landings | Revenues
Since the early 1980s, there has been an almost steady decrease in groundfish landings because of increased fishing restrictions and poor stock recruitment, the latter of which resulted from overfishing and other factors. The average annual landings of groundfish during the first four years of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program were about 80 percent of the 2001–2009 average. Under the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program, fishermen continue to harvest only a fraction of the annual allowable catches of many healthy stocks.
This indicator shows changes in groundfish landings, which affect the financial viability of fishing operations participating in the catch share fishery.
Baseline: Before Catch Share Program
The charts provided show the project baseline (see chart: Groundfish Landings) along with an extended baseline (see chart: Groundfish Landings: Extended Baseline) that spans three decades and provides additional context.
Since the early 1980s there has been an almost steady decrease in groundfish landings. Total groundfish landings during the five-year period from 2005 to 2009 were about 19 percent of the landings from the period between 1980 and 1984. The average annual landings from 2005 to 2009 of Atlantic cod, a species of historical importance in the fishery (History of Fishery), were about 15 percent of the annual landings from 1980 through 1984. The collapse of the Atlantic cod stocks in the Gulf of Maine (GOM) and Georges Bank (GB) shifted the fishery’s reliance onto other groundfish species, such as haddock and pollock. The percentage of the total groundfish catch represented by cod fell from 32 percent during the period from 1980 through 1984 down to 26 percent from 2005 through 2009. Reasons for the continued decline in groundfish landings include generally poor stock recruitment and increased restrictions on fishing. Throughout the baseline period from 2002 through 2009 the biomasses of six groundfish stocks in waters off New England were consistently in an overfished condition (Fishery Stock Status), resulting in ever-more-restrictive regulations.
Regulations designed to protect overfished species included a days-at-sea (DAS) program aimed at reducing fishing effort, increased mesh-size requirements, trip limits, and seasonal and year-round area closures (Management Framework). These regulations severely impeded the ability of fishermen to catch the TACs for healthy stocks (Ratio of Catch to Quota). For example, between 2006 and 2009 fishermen caught just six percent (19.3 thousand mt) of the roughly 322 thousand mt of GB haddock that NMFS determined could be sustainably harvested.
The inability of fishermen to catch the target TACs for some healthy stocks was likely also due to other factors, including other management measures such as cod trip limits. The seasonal availability of species, weather conditions, low market demand for some species, and changing ocean conditions that disrupted fish distribution patterns may also have had impacts.
During the project baseline period, groundfish landings generally decreased for all vessel size categories. But the percentage of the total groundfish landed by each size category showed no discernible trend. Vessels 75-ft-and-over in length accounted for between 34 and 38 percent of total landings; vessels between 50-ft and 75-ft in length accounted for 34 to 42 percent; and vessels between 30-ft and 50-ft in length accounted for 21 to 29 percent. Groundfish landings by vessels in the smallest vessel size category (those less than 30 ft) were negligible.
During Catch Share Program
The average annual landings of groundfish from 2010 through 2013 were approximately 80 percent of the average from 2001 to 2009. One reason for the decrease was that the annual catch limits (ACLs) of a number of stocks have been lowered since the implementation of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program. In 2008, for example, stock assessments suggested that the GOM cod stock appeared poised for recovery, but subsequent assessments using a new model and additional data found that the stock was still overfished. Between 2011 and 2012, the sub-ACL for GOM cod was reduced by 23 percent, and in 2013 it was lowered by 78 percent. In 2013, the sub-ACLs for 9 stocks were at their lowest point since the catch share program began. The unprecedented cuts in the harvest limits of key species in the Northeast groundfish fishery led the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to declare a commercial fishery failure in the fishery for the 2013 fishing season (Cost of Fishery Management: Public).
During the first years of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program, some sectors harvested 100 percent of a few of their allocations. But the average ratio of catch to quota for the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program fleet decreased from 55 to 37 percent from 2010 through 2013 (Ratio of Catch to Quota). On average, sector fishermen caught less than half their allotments of 6 stocks, and less than 80 percent of 11 stocks. GB haddock continue to be fished at a level far below the ACL, with 13 percent of the sector allocation being caught from 2010 through 2013. Assuming an average ex-vessel price of $1.46 per pound, about $436 million worth of GB haddock that NMFS determined could be sustainably harvested was unutilized. This foregone value exceeds the total gross revenue of the groundfish fishery during the 2010-2013 period (Groundfish Revenues).
Attempts have been made to address the problem of underutilized stocks using the provision of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program that allows NMFS to grant sectors regulatory exemptions that would provide sector vessels additional flexibility and improve their profitability (Northeast Multispecies Sector Program). In 2012, for example, NMFS approved an exemption allowing sector trawl vessels to harvest redfish using nets with codend mesh as small as 4.5 inches in order to enhance the opportunity to increase redfish harvest. In 2013, NMFS also considered an exemption that would allow sector vessels access to portions of Closed Areas I and II in order to increase opportunities to harvest GB haddock. However, approval of the exemption was contingent on the willingness of sector vessels to carry industry-funded at-sea monitors or observers to record total catch from the areas. NMFS rejected the exemption, in part, because the fishing industry indicated that it would be unprofitable for it to participate in the exemption if it was required to pay for an observer on every trip into the areas.
Landings and allocation data by vessel size category suggest a broad shift of annual catch entitlement (ACE) from smaller to larger vessels. On average, vessels 75 feet or longer were allocated 37 percent of all ACE from 2010 through 2013, but they caught 51 percent of the groundfish catch. From 2010 through 2013, those vessels, together with vessels in the 50-feet-to-less-than-75-feet size category, were the primary net lessees of ACE, while the smallest (less-than-30-ft) vessel size category, most likely inactive skiffs, was a primary source of leased ACE.
Data Gaps and Limitations
Baseline data for groundfish landings by vessel size category are currently unavailable for years prior to 2001 and for 2008 and 2009.
Kitts, A. et al. 2011. 2010 Final Report on the Performance of the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery, (May 2010-April 2011), 2nd Edition. NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document 11-19. Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Available online: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/publications/crd/
Labaree, J. 2012. Sector Management in New England’s Groundfish Fishery: Dramatic Change Spurs Innovation. Gulf of Maine Research Institute. Portland, ME. Available online: www.gmri.org
Magnuson-Stevens Act Provisions; Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Northeast Multispecies Fishery; Final Rule to Allow Northeast Multispecies Sector Vessels Access to Year-Round Closed Areas, 79 Federal Register 22043 (April 21, 2014). Available online: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/FR-2014-04-21/2014-09031
Murphy, T. et al. 2012. 2011 Final Report on the Performance of the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery, (May 2011-April 2012). NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document 12-30. Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Available online: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/publications/crd/
Murphy, T. et al. 2014. 2012 Final Report on the Performance of the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery, (May 2012-April 2013). NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document 14-01. Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Available online: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/publications/crd/
National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center. 2002. Assessment of 20 Northeast groundfish stocks through 2001: A report of the Groundfish Assessment Review Meeting (GARM), Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, October 8-11, 2002. Available online: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/saw/garm/
National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center. 2010-2012. Northeast Regional Stock Assessment Workshop Assessment Reports. Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center. 2012. Assessment or Data Updates of 13 Northeast Groundfish Stocks through 2010. Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Science Center. 2013. NOAA Fisheries Northeast Preliminary Landings Statistics Reports. Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Science and Technology. 2013. Annual Commercial Landing Statistics. Silver Spring, MD. Available online: http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st1/commercial/
New England Fishery Management Council. 2009. Final Amendment 16 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan Including a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and an Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis. Newburyport, MA. Available online: www.nefmc.org
Updated: October 2015
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