Campaign to End Overfishing in New England

On May 1, 2010, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) 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 rebuild fish populations and prevent overfishing.
  • 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 sector receives its own share of the annual catch. While respecting catch limits, the co-ops provide fishermen with 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 Goals:
In order to ensure the success of sectors, the campaign is working to ensure that NMFS does the following:

  • Creates more robust monitoring programs, so managers can track how many fish are landed and discarded. With improved data, scientists can better advise fisheries managers on setting future catch limits. Enhanced monitoring creates jobs, too.
  • Increases monitoring on vessels that did not join sectors, referred to as the common pool. If the common pool exceeds its limits -- as in the past -- fish populations won’t rebuild, there will be fewer fish for the sectors and the new program could fail.
  • Reduces the time between when new scientific data is acquired and when it is incorporated in setting catch limits. Fishery managers need to base decisions on the most current numbers, to reduce bycatch, end overfishing and rebuild depleted stocks.

Sectors will help rebuild fish populations while fishermen reap the benefits of market demand. New England’s sector program has just begun, and it deserves time to work.

Pew has partnered with two regionally based commercial fishing organizations, the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association and the Midcoast (Maine) Fishermen’s Association. Together, we are working to ensure that our shared goals are met: to end overfishing and protect the livelihoods of fishermen while groundfish populations rebuild.

For more information, visit the Campaign to End Overfishing in New England.

Photo Credit: Dieter Craasmann


  • Good Move for New England's Protected Waters

    Dec 16, 2013 - Fisheries officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have scrapped most of an ill-considered proposal that would have allowed bottom-trawl fishing in vast sections of protected waters off New England. The decision, announced Dec. 13, keeps intact some 3,000 square miles of the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank that have long protected fish and the habitat they depend on.

  • The Law That's Saving American Fisheries: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

    May 06, 2013 - Thanks to the Magnuson-Stevens Act, hard work, and dedication, our nation now benefits from dozens of rebuilt fish populations. The law's requirements to end overfishing and rebuild fish populations are working. In fact, A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, "Status of Stocks 2012," demonstrates that since 2000, 32 fishery stocks have been rebuilt, with a record 11 stocks recovering in just the last two years

  • Design Matters: Making Catch Shares Work

    Nov 03, 2009 - Science-based annual catch limits are essential if catch shares are to be effective and if requirements to end overfishing and rebuild depleted fish populations are to be met.

  • The Economic Case for a New Approach to Fisheries Management in New England

    May 06, 2009 - The New England groundfish fishery would be more economically and environmentally sound if the system used to manage the activities of commercial fishermen was changed from regulations based on “days-at-sea” to annual catch limits, according to a report released by the Pew Environment Group.

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Boston's NPR Affiliate WGBH Investigates Fishing in New England

On May 1, 2010, fishermen for New England’s iconic cod and other dinnertime favorites like haddock and flounder moved into a new management system called sectors. Boston’s NPR affiliate, WGBH 89.7 FM, produced a series exploring the history of New England’s fishing industry, its transition to this new cooperative way of fishing and the different forces at work – some that signal hope for the future, others that engage in an ongoing fight.

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