SEAFOOD.COM NEWS BY John Sackton – Oct 8, 2010 – At the recent New England council meeting there were several reports that shed some light on the performance of the regions fisheries in the controversial shift to catch shares.

One of the striking things is that New Bedford and Gloucester, as well as all of Massachusetts, has gained considerably from the program, while Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island have all seen landings decrease.

For example, NMFS reports through the end of August show that Massachusetts ports accounted for 84% of all landings. Total volume for the period May – August was 8200 tons vs. 8415 tons for the same period in 2009. This meant that landings in Mass. totalled 97.4% of the 2009 level, while revenues grew to 124.5% of 2009 levels. Clearly, sales and landings through Massachusetts ports have improved.

New Bedford's groundfish landings were 111% of 2009, while Gloucester's were 95%. Groundfish revenues in Gloucester and New Bedford are up 25% to 30% over last year.

However, the picture is darker for the rest of the region. In Maine, landings were 62.1% of 2009 levels, although revenues were 96.1%. For New Hampshire, landings were 41.7%, and revenues were 74.7%. And for Rhode Island, landings were at 66.3%, and revenues were at 71.3%.

For the region as a whole, 87.8% of 2009 volume was landed in 2010 so far, but revenues are 116% higher, so there is a net gain in value.

[Note: In response to comments on this story, the fact that overall revenues in Gloucester were up does nothing to help the small boat fleet – which is still hurting tremendously from lack of catch history. That is why they and their supporters in government are so upset – and that fact does not change despite a landing pattern that sees more large vessels land in Gloucester, boosting port total revenue. JS]

In 2009, Massachusetts accounted for 76% of the landings during the period while in 2010, Massachusetts accounted for 84%.

One reason may be the requirement for dockside monitors, which forces vessels into ports with established monitoring in place.

The regional discrepancies suggest that the Council will have to look at measures to equalize landings among ports closer to their historical levels. New Hampshire, for example, recently announced a $1 million grant from NMFS to set up a permit bank for New Hampshire vessels, which will presumeably require them to make more landings in the state.

The council also voted unanimously to establish accumulation limits for the groundfish fishery. Accumulation limits may help make quota history available for purchase by permit banks, and subsequent distribution to small boats.

It was also clear from the report at the council that fishing in the common pool is less and less viable. According to NMFS there was an 8% increase in the number of permit holders planning to join sectors in 2011, meaning that sectors will represent 98% of the region's catch.

With most sectors well within their fishing ACL's for most groundfish species, and with substantial quotas left on haddock and cod, there is still the possibility that groundfish landings will edge up to reach last year's levels as fishing continues over the winter.

John Sackton, Editor And Publisher News 1-781-861-1441
Email comments to