A History of Ground Fishing
In New England
New England Groundfishing was the first colonial industry in America. During the past 400 years many changes in methods, technology, people, rules and restrictions have occurred.
In the beginning, it was schooner fleets that sailed from Gloucester and Boston to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Catches of salt cod supported nearly 400 schooners in each of these ports along with many shoreside businesses.
- 1906 Introduction to steam trawl
- 1920-1930 Developments in cold storage allows fresh market to emerge- target catch moves from cod to haddock. Demand for salt cod is reduced as demand for a fish filet is increased.
- 1930-1950 the Great Depression took a toll on industry profitability- WWII resulted in prosperity as large ships were used for mine sweeping and smaller vessels left to supply demands of protein.
- 1960-1976 The arrival of foreign fleets or Distant Water Fleets, factory trawlers attribute to the decline of fish populations. US and Canada join together to protect coastal interests. Magnuson Act came into effect with the 200 mile limit and the beginning of regulations.
- From 1977-1997 the Groundfish Industry would be subject to an assortment of many different management strategies. Emergency implementation of groundfish plan, including initial (OY) Optimal Yields. Quotas, daily and weekly. Closures of fisheries if exceeded quotas. Fishing ground closures, year round and spawning closures. Cod end increases from 5” to 6 1/2”(the largest in the world).
- 1984 Hague Line goes into effect in 1984, where the US fishing vessels restricted to 75% of Georges Banks.
- 1986 Interim plan in effect until September, multispecies plan implemented. More species with minimum size limits, larger closed areas, 5 1/2” min. mesh size.
- 1987 Amendment 1 to Multispecies plan- more area closed – increased mesh size to 6”.
- 1988 Amendment 1 in effect, Council submits Amendment 2 for approval. Amendment 2 in effect February 1989.
- 1990 Amendment 3 changes the penalty system for fishing infractions.
- 1991-1992 Amendment 4 partially approved by NOAA
Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) sues secretary of commerce over failure to conserve groundfish stocks. Consent decree reached in CLF suit, August.
Development of Amendment 5 to satisfy decree begins.
- 1992 continued development of Amendment 5.
- 1993 Amendment 4 in effect. Amendment 5 completed: Moratorium on new fishing permits; days at sea (DAS) limits imposed- minimum mesh size 6”, closed areas expanded, fishing mortality rate to be reduced by 50% in 5 years, loose 10% per year.
- 1994 Amendment 5 in effect. NMFS scientist claims stocks collapsed and Amendment 5 is insufficient for recovery. Emergency rules- 6 month closure of 17% of Georges Banks, mandatory logbook reporting implemented.
- 1995 Emergency rules extended indefinitely by council. Working on Amendment 7-extended closed areas, 50% reduction in DAS by 1997, possession limits, target total allowable catch levels, minimum fish sizes and mesh size.
- 1996 Amendment 7 in effect.
Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA) amended the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA)
Procedure for setting annual TAC (Total Allowable Catch) determined.
50% reduction in DAS
An average Groundfish vessel was allocated 88 days to fish for groundfish. As the result of the lawsuit, Conservation Law Foundation v Evans, groundfish vessels were required to take an additional 20% reduction in days at sea, leaving the average groundfish vessel with only 70 days to work- from dock to dock.
Time and Closure in Northeast, mid-coast and Massachusetts Bay, extended to all gear types
Nearly 2,000 square nautical miles of the Gulf of Maine closed year-round to all gear capable of catching groundfish. Between 1,200 and 5,400 square nautical miles of the Gulf of Maine is closed seasonally for periods of one to seven months.
Approximately 30% of Georges Bank is closed since 1994 to groundfish vessels