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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  • Risky Decisions and the Demise of New England's Cod

    The regional council charged with sustainably managing fishing in New England will grapple this week with the alarming decline of one of the region’s most important fish species, cod. Once so bountiful that it built New England’s economy, this fish is now at an all-time low—an estimated 3 percent of a healthy population in the Gulf of Maine and less than 10 percent on nearby... Read More

  • The Bottom Line

    Lee Crockett's “Overfishing 101” blog provided an authoritative primer on federal fisheries policy. It also spotlighted historic milestones and celebrated success stories. His new series, “The Bottom Line,” will continue to explore fisheries management issues, while taking on other related subjects to provide a more in-depth look at the issues facing our ocean... Read More

  • Risky Decisions

    With its rich fishing history, bountiful ocean resources, and long record of leadership in marine science, New England should be the flagship U.S. fisheries management region. Instead, it is mired in an ongoing crisis that threatens the viability of the fish and the fishing communities that helped build the region's economy. Read More

Media Contact

Jeff Young

Officer, Communications