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

May 06, 2009

New England’s economy was built on the teeming fishing grounds off its shores, turning the region into an international powerhouse by the eighteenth century.

The advance of technology increased the efficiency of fishing operations. Unfortunately, misguided management decisions gave an illusion of prosperity that persisted until recently; as fish dwindled, the dollars kept flowing. Today, over half of the historic fish populations are desperately overfished, a mere shadow of what they were, and the recent decade has witnessed a mass exodus of fishermen from the historic fishing industry.

Now, the news reminds us repeatedly of the demise of this iconic industry. What happened to the fish that supported the fishermen and their families, poured money into our coastal communities and put food on our tables? And is there any hope for a brighter future?

This report chronicles the rise and fall of groundfish (cod, haddock and flounder) and describes what happened to the New England fishing economy as a consequence. It critiques the days-at-sea management system and the downward spiral it created.

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