2008 Annual Report
Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Spotlight on Community

Sectors: A Profound Change in Fishery Management

New England’s groundfish fleet – those vessels that harvest such bottom-dwelling species as cod, haddock, pollock, and flounder – operated under a new set of regulations starting in May 2010. Operating as part of harvesting cooperatives called sectors, fishermen shared an allocation of stocks rather than being limited to a set number of days at sea. The dramatic shift represented an enormous organizational challenge for the industry as well as an operational one for individual fishermen.

Having spent much of 2009 helping industry form 14 of the 17 sectors, GMRI’s Fisheries Technical Assistance Program focused its 2010 efforts on ensuring the durability of these brand-new nonprofits. Through our administration of federal start-up assistance for sectors, staff provided training to help sector managers set up accounting systems and navigate the detailed process of tracking federal grants. Working with an organizational consultant, we ran sessions to teach sector board members the basics of nonprofit law and management and provided tailored follow-up on such issues as getting federal tax-exempt status, staff-board relations, and anti-trust precautions. 

The sector system introduces additional expenses to a fisherman’s business.  To help offset those new costs, GMRI has administered over $1.3 million in federal assistance grants to sectors. Switching from a management system based on days-at-sea to one based on pounds of fish harvested has required industry and the National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS) to develop new monitoring and reporting systems. Although NMFS has covered some of the monitoring costs, industry will soon have to pay for costly at-sea monitors. GMRI has been working with industry, NMFS, and other nonprofits to develop a cost-effective program that will provide accurate data while not forcing boats to tie up.

The development and introduction of sector management in New England has captured the attention of fisheries managers – and fishermen – across the country.  GMRI staff traveled to the Northwest, West Coast, and mid-Atlantic regions to discuss the transition.  Those trips offered the opportunity for a full sharing ideas, with staff bringing ideas back to New England on approaches to monitoring, by-catch avoidance, and satellite systems. 


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