New England Ocean Conservation

Working on a sea change in New England's fishery management

Ocean health along the U.S. East coast

Atlantic cod has been a mainstay of the New England economy and an icon of regional culture since the early American colonies. Today, 14 of 20 groundfish populations are either overfished or experiencing overfishing, including dinnertime favorites cod and flounder, and this decline is hurting the region’s marine environment and economy. Our work in the region has helped change the way this fishery is managed so that fish populations can rebuild, and in turn, sustain a more productive fishing industry and stronger coastal economies.

On May 1, 2010, the National Marine Fisheries Service implemented a new management system for groundfish in New England. It established 17 fishermen-run collectives, called sectors. Sectors were pioneered by fishermen as voluntary, cooperative and community-based, and were designed to protect fleet diversity and coastal communities. The new management system operates on three simple premises:

  • It implements science-based catch limits to prevent overfishing and rebuild fish populations.
  • It incorporates monitoring so fishermen and regulators know exactly how much fish is being caught, and as a result, fishing stops once catch limits have been reached.
Each fishing sector receives its own share of the annual catch. This provides fishermen the flexibility to set their own fishing guidelines so they can run their businesses more efficiently and profitably. Those who develop more innovative fishing gear can target more of the healthy fish populations and avoid those populations that are struggling.

Our Work

View All
  • Federal Managers Should Act to Reverse Decline of Vital Coastal Fish

    Every spring, as part of an annual migration, river herring and shad on the East Coast leave the ocean and run up rivers to spawn. At sea, river herring and shad are food for valuable commercial species, including tuna and cod, as well as whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals. And in rivers, their spawning runs attract not only eagles, osprey, and striped bass but also recreational anglers. Read More

  • Atlantic Herring on Fishery Managers’ Agenda

    In the coming months, the New England Fishery Management Council will make big decisions about Atlantic herring—a key source of food for many of the region’s popular marine species, including cod, striped bass, puffins, bluefin tuna, and humpback whales—and your voice will be essential to ensuring that the council makes the best choices for the health of our wildlife and coastal... Read More

  • New England Fishery Council Votes to Protect Deep-Sea Corals

    Less than 100 miles off the New England coast, the seafloor begins to drop steeply, transitioning to a rich deep-sea ecosystem that supports a diverse array of marine life. Slow-growing corals are the vital foundation of that productive offshore habitat—and today the New England Fishery Management Council passed a measure to protect more than 25,000 square miles of the deep-sea floor from... Read More

Media Contact

Christine Fletcher

Officer, Communications

202.540.6908