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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  • 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

  • With Menhaden Making a Comeback, Managers Are at a Crossroads

    It appears that we may soon get some promising news about the fish that’s sometimes called the most important one in the sea—the Atlantic menhaden. These small forage fish constitute a key part of the marine food web, and now the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is nearing completion of a new assessment of the stock. Read More

  • An 'Ounce of Prevention' for Little Fish

    At its December meeting the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council unanimously agreed to a proactive approach to fishing for forage species that hadn’t previously been targeted. Read More

Media Contact

Jeff Young

Officer, Communications

617.728.0300