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Have economic and social effects on local communities changed?

Indicators: Landings and Revenues by State and Port

Key Findings

  • In Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire, the states with the the largest stake in the groundfish fishery, groundfish landings and revenue generally showed a decreasing trend after the mid- to late-1980s due to regulations designed to protect overfished species.
  • During the first five years of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program, the economic importance of the groundfish fishery to each state’s fishing industry continued to drop due to various factors, including lower annual catch limits for many stocks.
  • By 2015, groundfish revenue as a percentage of total fishery revenue was around 11 percent in Massachusetts, about 1 percent in New Hampshire, and less than 1 percent in Maine.
  • Vessels based in the major Massachusetts ports of Boston, Gloucester, and New Bedford have been especially hard hit by the continued decline in groundfish landings and revenue.

Interactive Chart Story

Metrics

This indicator shows changes in groundfish landings at the level of communities, as a component of effects on the economic and social life of communities.

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 fishermen in New Hampshire and southern Maine and Northern Massachusetts are historically small boats. They’re day boat draggers. They fished for historically whatever came through. The rolling closures put a dent in how they could fish because a lot of the closures were right off of New Hampshire. So when catch shares came their allocations were small to begin with.”
~ Fishermen

“One of the big issues I have, and I didn’t know this when we went to those catch shares, is that the boats that always fished George’s out off New Bedford could lease codfish quota and then come in to the Gulf of Maine. And that put pressure on the Gulf of Maine that the Gulf of Maine has never seen. And I didn’t realize that could happen, see.”
~ Fishermen

“Well, I’m of the opinion that the new management system has been an equal opportunity constrainer. I mean I know that information shows that the impacts seem to be more on the smaller boat fleet than on the bigger boat fleet but when we started there was a lot more small boats than there were big boats. I know from experience a lot of people that were under 50 feet that were fishing under days at sea are no longer fishing today. If they were cut down to 25 days at sea and a 200 pound trip limit with a two for one counting in the Gulf of Maine, probably those same boats would not be fishing. I don’t think it’s because of the design of the system. If the stocks are going down, the regs are going to get tighter, whether it’s days at sea or quotas.”
~ NGO

“Well, the big boats can take advantage of the healthy stocks, which is haddock, haddock and reds right now. The inshore small boats, the little 38 to 40 footers, last year they got hammered hard. I mean Gloucester, I mean they had a huge day boat fishery down there for codfish. Guys go out and get their codfish and come back in. Gone because of the Gulf of Maine cod restrictions. The same thing happened to our boats here this summer. They couldn’t fish inshore because of the codfish. There is a crap load of cod out there. So these guys couldn’t fish because they didn’t have the quota for it. So if you’re out there and you have an observer on board, you catch codfish and you’re screwed. You shut down your sector for the year.”
~ Fish dealer

“Well, I’m of the opinion that the new management system has been an equal opportunity constrainer. I mean I know that information shows that the impacts seem to be more on the smaller boat fleet than on the bigger boat fleet but when we started there was a lot more small boats than there were big boats. I know from experience a lot of people that were under 50 feet that were fishing under days at sea are no longer fishing today. If they were cut down to 25 days at sea and a 200 pound trip limit with a two for one counting in the Gulf of Maine, probably those same boats would not be fishing. I don’t think it’s because of the design of the system. If the stocks are going down, the regs are going to get tighter, whether it’s days at sea or quotas.”
~ NGO

“Well, the big boats can take advantage of the healthy stocks, which is haddock, haddock and reds right now. The inshore small boats, the little 38 to 40 footers, last year they got hammered hard. I mean Gloucester, I mean they had a huge day boat fishery down there for codfish. Guys go out and get their codfish and come back in. Gone because of the Gulf of Maine cod restrictions. The same thing happened to our boats here this summer. They couldn’t fish inshore because of the codfish. There is a crap load of cod out there. So these guys couldn’t fish because they didn’t have the quota for it. So if you’re out there and you have an observer on board, you catch codfish and you’re screwed. You shut down your sector for the year.”
~ Fish dealer

“There are major issues around small boats, big boats. I try not to focus too much on those because they always have been big issues, whether it’s under days at sea or other types of management. I don’t think sectors are making it that much different. The larger boats have been able to work within the sector system more effectively than the small boats, but the small boat communities have stepped up to try to combat that by building quota lease funds like what we have on Cape Cod.”
~ Industry Representative

“The bigger guys, I mean they can go out. They have enough fuel capacity to be able to get off the fish that they shouldn’t be catching and move somewhere else. And if they’re fishing on some of the George’s stocks that are in far better shape. They go fill their boat full of haddock.”
~ Government

“The bigger guys, I mean they can go out. They have enough fuel capacity to be able to get off the fish that they shouldn’t be catching and move somewhere else. And if they’re fishing on some of the George’s stocks that are in far better shape. They go fill their boat full of haddock.”
~ Government

“We lost our groundfish populations here in Eastern Maine long before sectors started, and the qualification years that they used for the allocation of the quota was well after people had participated in the fishery. So we didn’t see a sharp decline in participation in the fishery at the beginning of sectors because those fishermen were largely done fishing for groundfish anyway just because of the stock size in Eastern Maine.”
~ NGO

Analysis

Baseline: Before Catch Share Program

During the baseline period, Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire were the largest stakeholders in the groundfish fishery as measured by revenues generated, together accounting for about 87 percent of groundfish revenue from 2002 through 2009. In both states, however, groundfish landings and revenue generally showed a decreasing trend after the mid- to late-1980s. Regulations designed to protect overfished species limited the ability of fishermen to catch healthy groundfish stocks (Financial Viability of the Fishery: Landings and Ratio of Catch to Quota).

After the implementation of the days-at-sea (DAS) leasing program in 2004, permitted multispecies vessels based out of Massachusetts were the most active participants in the program (Management Framework), leasing in more DAS than any other state and accounting for an increasing proportion of the total DAS leased. However, average annual groundfish revenues in Massachusetts in the 2002-2009 period were about 80 percent of those from 1992 to 1999. As a result of this decrease, the economic importance of the groundfish fishery to the state’s fishing industry as a whole dropped. Groundfish revenue as a percentage of total fishery revenue in Massachusetts fell from 51 percent in 1980 to 30 percent in 2002, and to 19 percent by 2009 based on state of landing data (Groundfish Revenue as Percent of Total Revenue ).

Vessels based in New Bedford and Gloucester accounted for most of the groundfish revenue in Massachusetts. During the baseline years, New Bedford vessels led all northeast ports in groundfish revenue. Between 2002 and 2009, however, groundfish revenue by vessels home-ported in the New Bedford/South Coast region declined by 42 percent despite the funneling of DAS from other states to vessels based out of Massachusetts. The decline may have been due to a combination of reduced opportunities to target offshore stocks as regulations restricted landings of GB yellowtail flounder, GB cod, GB winter flounder, and SNE/MA yellowtail flounder, as well as increased costs for fishing in some areas. For example, some areas became subject to differential DAS in the inshore GOM beginning in 2006 (Management Framework). As groundfish diminished in importance in New Bedford, vessels in the port became more reliant on non-groundfish fisheries. From 2002 to 2009, for example, the proportion of the limited access scallop fleet home-ported in New Bedford grew from 37 to 43 percent. Groundfish revenue as a percentage of total fishery revenue for vessels in the New Bedford/South Coast region dropped from about 18 percent in 2002 to 9 percent in 2009.

Average annual groundfish revenue in Maine in the 2002-2009 period was about 37 percent of what it was from 1992 to 1999. Groundfish revenue as a percentage of total fishery revenue in the state fell from 8 percent in 2002 to 2 percent in 2009. Vessels home-ported in Portland, which is located in Maine’s Lower Mid-Coast/Southern region, accounted for about half of the state’s groundfish revenue between 2002 and 2009. During these years, groundfish revenue of Portland vessels fluctuated with no discernible trend.

For vessels based in smaller Massachusetts and Maine ports the changes in groundfish revenue were mixed. Between 2005 and 2009, average annual groundfish revenue was lower than the 1996-2000 average for vessels in Downeast Maine (-80 percent), Upper Mid-Coast Maine (-54 percent), Cape Cod/Islands Massachusetts (-32 percent), and Lower Mid-coast/Southern Maine (-0.4 percent); while slightly higher in South Shore Massachusetts (4 percent).

During the baseline period, New Hampshire’s fishing sector was second only to that of Massachusetts in terms of dependence on the groundfish fishery. Groundfish revenue as a percentage of total annual fishery revenue varied widely from year-to-year during the baseline period, but generally showed a decreasing trend in New Hampshire. Vessels based in Portsmouth experienced a 15 percent decline in groundfish revenue between 2002 and 2009.

During the baseline years, other Northeastern states were substantially less dependent on the groundfish fishery than Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. That relatively limited dependence generally declined over the baseline period in each state except for Rhode Island, where dependence varied with no clear trend.

A comparison of groundfish landings by vessel home port state and state port of landing shows that the states in which fishermen base their vessels are not necessarily the states in which they land their catches. During the baseline years, for example, the ratio of groundfish revenue by home port state to groundfish revenue by landing state fell sharply in Maine (Ratio of Home Port State to Landing State ). By 2007, the state’s ports accounted for 11 percent of total groundfish revenue, but vessels based in Maine accounted for 16 percent of the total, indicating that those vessels landed a portion of their catch out of state. It is likely that landings shifted from ports in Maine to Massachusetts ports, most notably Gloucester. One advantage that Maine groundfish boats gain from offloading their catch in Massachusetts is that Massachusetts allows a limited amount of incidentally-caught lobster to be sold. Maine fishing regulations prohibit fishermen from selling any lobster when they are not the fishermen’s permitted catch. As groundfish landings declined, the extra income from lobster sales became increasingly significant for groundfish vessels.

During Catch Share Program

Average annual groundfish landings and revenue for all states combined were lower in the first five years of the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program than they were in the five years preceding program implementation (Financial Viability of the Fishery: Landings and Financial Viability of the Fishery: Revenues). While trip limits, the DAS program, and other management measures that restricted landings during the pre-catch share program period were lifted for sector vessels, other, often interrelated, factors led to declining landings after catch share program implementation. Annual catch limits of many stocks have been lowered since the catch share program began (Annual Catch Limits). In addition, for some allocated stocks the amount that could be sustainably harvested was unutilized due to various obstacles, including weak markets for some allocated groundfish species and constraining stocks caused by low annual catch entitlement allocations (Financial Viability of the Fishery: Landings).

As a result of the decrease in landings, the economic importance of the groundfish fishery to each state’s fishing industry continued to drop. By 2015, groundfish revenue as a percentage of total fishery revenue was around 11 percent in Massachusetts, about 1 percent in New Hampshire, and less than 1 percent in Maine.

Vessels based in the major Massachusetts ports of Boston, Gloucester, and New Bedford have been especially hard hit by the continued decline in groundfish landings and revenue. The groundfish revenue of Gloucester/North Shore vessels fell 67 percent over the 2010-2014 period. New Bedford also experienced a sharp decline, but its groundfish fleet is less dependent on groundfish revenue than Gloucester- and Boston-based groundfish vessels. In terms of groundfish revenue as a proportion of the total fishery revenue of limited access multispecies permit holders, between 2010 and 2014, the percentage dropped from 36 to 20 percent for vessels home-ported in the Gloucester/North Shore region; 23 to 18 percent in Boston/South Shore; and 22 to 9 percent in Cape Cod/Islands. The proportion of groundfish revenue to total fishery revenue for permit holders in Maine (both Downeast/Upper Mid-Coast.and Lower Mid-Coast/Southern regions), and the South Coast of Massachusetts remained flat.

Information Sources

Kitts, A. et al. 2011. 2010 Final Report on the Performance of the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery, (May 2010-April 2011). NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document 11-19. Woods Hole, MA. 

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, MA.

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, MA.

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.

National Marine Fisheries Service, Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office. 2016. Amendment 19 to the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery Management Plan Including a Draft Environmental Assessment (EA). Gloucester, MA.

National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Science and Technology. 2017. Annual Commercial Landing Statistics. 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.

Rauscher, C. 2012. Enforcement dissonance: Lobsters, the legislature, and federal waters in State v. Thomas. Maine Law Review 64(1): 364-376.

Updated: June2018

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