New Report on Northeast Groundfishing Industry shows that Fleets are Shrinking, Crew Positions are Disappearing, but Revenues are Increasing

Posted by erik devaney

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Groundfishing, or the catching of fish that swim near the ocean’s bottom, was one of the first colonial industries in the New World. For over 400 years, New England groundfishermen have been making a living pulling up cod, haddock, flounders, redfish and other bottom-dwelling species. However, a new report from the NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center at Woods Hole, MA, shows that the centuries-old industry is undergoing some major changes.

Last year marked the first full year of New England groundfishing under Amendment 16 to the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. The controversial amendment established a catch share management system and included the implementation of annual catch limits and new accountability measures.

“The biggest effect that appears directly attributable to Amendment 16 is an end to a sustained period of overfishing in the groundfish fishery,” Andrew Kitts told New England Post. Kitts, an NOAA economist, is one of the author’s of the new report. “In terms of the effect on social/economic aspects, they are higher total revenues, fewer landings, fewer trips and fewer vessels. This translates to possibly better economic performance in terms of less effort (at presumably less cost) to get higher revenues.”

However, while groundfishing revenues are climbing, groundfishing jobs are disappearing. As Kitts stated, “While some vessel owners may be doing better economically (and, on average, most are), there appear to be fewer opportunities for crew.”

This fact seems to indicate that unemployment in the fishing industry is rising as a result of Amendment 16. But as Kitts commented, the NOAA does not directly track employment in the fishing industry. Instead, they estimate the amount of crew required based on the number of vessels, the number of trips and the time spent fishing in the groundfishery.

“The number of opportunities to crew a groundfish vessel does not directly translate to crew income or even activity, which can be influenced by many factors including cost sharing and pay agreements and whether crew found other work in other fisheries,” Kitts told New England Post.

As a whole, New England’s groundfishing industry is shifting towards a state of greater consolidation. Top-earning vessels are increasingly bringing in higher concentrations of revenues, as revenues are becoming consolidated on fewer vessels. According to Kitts, however, this consolidation trend has little to do with Amendment 16: “For the most part, both consolidation of groundfish revenues on to the vessels with the most history of fishing for these species — as well as the declines in effort — have been ongoing in tandem for a number of years and are not new features of management under Amendment 16.”

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Posted by erik devaney on Sep 24 2011. Filed under Featured - For home page featured article, General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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