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

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  • 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

  • Why We Need to Protect Deep Sea Corals Now

    On Jan. 30, the New England Fishery Management Council is expected to vote on a measure that will protect deep-sea coral from fishing gear-related damage. Scientist Sandra Brooke advised the South and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, which have already taken such steps. Read More

  • New Science Conflicts With Proposed Rollback of Protections

    The long shadow cast last week by the shrinking of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments is looming over the Atlantic Ocean. The day after President Donald Trump downsized Utah’s monuments, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke released his final report on the remaining monuments under review, and to my disappointment, he recommended changes to the Northeast Canyons and... Read More

Media Contact

Christine Fletcher

Officer, Communications