Council Votes to Increase Some Groundfish Quota


Newport, RI—The New England Fisheries Management Council voted to increase groundfish quota for cod, pollock, haddock and other species for the 2018-20 fishing seasons. The action, while it includes reducing quota for some species, is expected to be a financial benefit for the New England fishing industry.

There will be substantial quota increases for Gulf of Maine cod, Georges Bank cod and Gulf of Maine haddock and pollock. Groundfish accounted for less than 1% of Maine’s $700 million commercial fishing industry in 2016.

In southern New England, where groundfish and scallops are a much larger share of the fishing industry, there was a 77.5% cut in yellowtail flounder quota. Yellowtail, a bycatch species in the scallop industry, was cut to 42 tons, the lowest ever set by the council. Windowpane quota, a southern New England flounder, was cut 49%.

The fact that Georges Bank cod was increased 156% and GOM cod 39% is even more remarkable since the same council cut cod quota 78% just two years ago.

That contentious “emergency action” was deemed necessary because it “was the end of days for cod” in the words of one council member.

The quota increases will help, but quota must now be bought and prices fishermen pay for quota will cut into their profits. The size and health of the groundfish stocks was also a topic of discussion at the December council meeting. During a public comment period Gloucester fisherman Vito Giacalone questioned the data-gathering methodology and thereby the accuracy and value of the resultant stock assessments on which quota is based.

The council also discussed actions related to recreational fisheries and approved a temporary administrative measure to give the Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office (GARFO) regional administrator the authority to adjust recreational measures for Georges Bank cod.