In 2010, the New England groundfish fleet began fishing under a new catch share system when federal fishing regulators established the sector system that remains in place today in the Northeast Multispecies groundfish fishery.
Now, nine years after implementation, the New England Fishery Management Council is embarking on a review of the first six years of the commercial groundfish catch share system and is using a series of nine meetings in fishing ports from Maine to New York to elicit public comment.
One of those meetings is scheduled for Gloucester on July 25 at the Sawyer Free Library on Dale Avenue. The meeting is set to run from 4:30 to 7 p.m.
"Most of our fishermen in this fishery now fish in a sector, so we thought it would be a good time to review the program after having it in effect for a while," said Janice Plante, spokeswoman for the council.
The review actually is mandated by NOAA Fisheries, though in a rather oblique manner. The agency said management councils should periodically review — "no less frequently than once every seven years" — catch share programs to evaluate whether they meet the objectives of the fishery management plan.
Catch shares, according to NOAA Fisheries, "dedicate a secure share of fish to individual fishermen, cooperatives of fishing communities for their exclusive use."
In the case of the Northeast Multispecies groundfish fishery, the share is dedicated to sectors comprised of individual fishermen.
"Part of the catch — or a share — of a species is allocated to individual fishermen or groups," NOAA Fisheries said in a catch-share primer. "Each holder of a catch share must stop fishing when he reaches his limit. In most cases, fishermen can buy/sell or lease shares in a given year. This allows them to plan their fishing around the weather, markets, or other considerations and allows other fishery-dependent businesses to plan more effectively."
The council has contracted with the Portland, Maine-based Gulf of Maine Research Institute to conduct the port meetings, which will begin on July 18 in Ellsworth, Maine, and end Aug. 16 in New Bedford.
The council also has contracted with MRAG Americas to support the technical working group responsible for compiling the review of the catch share program.
The working group includes representatives from the council, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center and staff at the Gloucester-based Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office.
The council said MRAG also will assist in the research and writing of the draft review document before presenting it to the full council, as well as to its satellite committees, including the groundfish plan development team, the groundfish and recreational advisory panels, the scientific and statistical committee and the groundfish committee.
The full council expects to receive a summary of input from the port meetings and a summary of all written comments when it meets in Gloucester in September.
Written comments may be submitted to the council by email or traditional mail. The deadline for acceptance is 5 p.m. on Aug. 19.
"At some point, we plan to develop a list of questions that will help guide people in making their comments," Plante said. "It's a pretty complex subject."
Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.
Catch share comments
Here's how to submit written comments:
Fax: (978) 465-3116
Mail: Tom Nies, Executive Director,
New England Fishery Management Council,
50 Water St., Mill 2,
Newburyport, MA 01950
All written comments must be received by 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 19.