Project Report:
Safeguarding New England's Groundfish Fishery and Marine Ecosystem through Market-based Management Programs
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


Under the Obama Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has embraced "catch share" management as the most profitable, effective way to end overfishing and restore the nation's marine fisheries. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), in partnership with industry, non-profit partners and NOAA, is working to help New England fishermen successfully transition to catch shares in New England's troubled marine fisheries.


Thanks to generous support from the Walker Foundation, EDF is able to provide peer-to-peer education and business support to New England fishermen who are in the process of transitioning to sustainable fisheries management. This new approach is called "sectors," a form of catch share management that puts a direct cap on how much fish can be caught every year in the entire fishery, and parcels percentages of that annual harvest to fishing cooperatives to decide how best to collectively fish their portion. Under sectors, groups of fishermen commit to higher levels of accountability in exchange for more flexibility in when and how they collectively catch their allotment of fish. As fisheries return to their former abundance, fishermen and fishing communities directly benefit.

In April 2010, fishing industry leaders from New England and the Mid-Atlantic traveled to Galveston, Texas to meet with fishermen and staff of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, the industry group that advocates for the continuation and refinement of the Gulf catch share program for red snapper. Fishermen were able to talk with their peers about effective catch share design and implementation, challenges and lessons learned, and what Gulf fishermen had gained personally and economically from taking responsibility for designing the catch share system under which they now operate. Two outcomes from this exchange were a training in catch share design for fishermen participants and a commitment to fishermen-directed outreach and design to develop future catch share programs in New England.

In addition, EDF is supporting the efforts of the CapLog Group (, a consulting firm focused on helping New England groundfish fishermen develop successful business plans for fishing under “sector” catch share management. CapLog works directly with several sectors of fishermen to identify opportunities for increasing revenues, decreasing administrative costs, and improving their marketing opportunities for their high quality, fresh, locally-caught fish. CapLog has also begun providing in-depth analyses to fishermen and policy makers on how the New England groundfish industry has evolved over time, what to expect from sector implementation, and how sectors can be improved to best meet the socioeconomic goals of fishermen and their communities.

Final Report
May 2011

The transition to sector management in the New England groundfish fishery for the 2010 fishing year (May 1, 2010 – April 30, 2011) represented a substantial and important step in a long history of attempts to move the fishery towards greater predictability, stability and profitability for its fishermen and fishing communities. With the first full year of operation under sectors now complete, preliminary results of the program's performance show encouraging signs of progress: sector fishermen stayed within their allowed catch, fishery revenues remained stable even with decreased landings, the average price per pound fishermen received for groundfish increased, fishing productivity increased dramatically and discards were significantly reduced. While preliminary trends are encouraging, everyone is committed to continually work to improve the program so that it provides further benefits to fishermen and resources.

Support from the Alex C. Walker Foundation has enabled EDF staff and consultants to continue to work with select sectors to assist them with business and financial advice and provided support and tools to fishermen operating under sectors, which help fishermen be better prepared under the new system. EDF has made solid progress to help New England fishermen successfully transition to catch shares in New England's troubled marine fisheries.

EDF consultant, Mike Clayton, developed a lease price calculator and evaluation guide that helps fishermen enrolled in sectors to assess the decision to lease quota. It generates a rough estimate of the profit to the boat owner, captain and/or crew that can be expected by leasing pounds of a given species or mix of species at a given price. He distributed this tool to a number of sectors in Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Clayton also provided business consulting and support to allow an increasing number of fishermen and target fishing groups experience the direct financial benefits for managing their catch and information in order to advance business models for smaller-scale fishermen (see attached Providence Journal article- Wild Rhody fishermen sell their catch directly to local restaurants). This direct to restaurant marketing initiative will substantially increase local support for sectors in the area.

EDF also led a fishermen’s exchange trip to Galveston, Texas. We brought ten New England and Mid-Atlantic groundfishermen and monkfishermen along to meet with fishermen involved in the Gulf of Mexico Commercial Red Snapper Individual Fishing Quota Program. This exchange allowed the visiting fishermen to see how catch shares work in action, and learn how practices such as gear selection, quota trading, electronic monitoring and observer coverage, and deals with processors that make the fishery more environmentally responsible and profitable. The exchange also facilitated valuable personal interactions, giving fishermen the opportunity to learn from their peers’ experience.

Using our Catch Share Design Manual and other assistance from EDF,
the New England Fishery Management Council successfully initiated a monkfish catch share amendment this year. The amendment is still in its beginning phases of development.

In addition, working with NOAA and fishing industry stakeholders, EDF has worked to secure a third year of federal appropriations from the 2011 budget to support the transition to catch shares in New England fisheries. As you may know, the budget for 2012 still has not been approved and the outcome is unclear. However, there were federal appropriations in the 2011 budget for sector management in New England.

With important momentum in place as the infrastructure for sectors in New England develops, EDF continues to build on this critical work to build good business planning for the success of new catch share programs. Thanks to the continued partnership with the Alex C. Walker Foundation, fishermen have begun to take full advantage of the new management system to meet their economic and conservation goals under catch shares management.

Financial Report
Personnel (includes benefits) $661,937
Consultants 350,677
Travel 75,620
Regional Meetings 29,704
Fishermen Exchanges (grants & passthru) 143,500
Printing/Supplies/Media 195,365
EDF Indirect Costs @ 16% 279,397

Total project expenses: $1,736,200


EDF has been the key proponent of “catch shares,” market-based approaches to fisheries, setting an annual quota on the amount of fish that can be harvested. Fishing boats are allocated defined portions of the quota to maximize their profitability while staying under sustainable harvest limits. This system has the dual benefit of protecting resources while maximizing economic benefits to fishermen. EDF is working to establish catch shares as the default management tool for fisheries in the U.S. In June 2009, the New England Fishery Management Council unanimously voted to adopt a fishing cooperative-based catch share program "sectors" for groundfish. Over 95 percent of the harvest voluntarily agreed to fish under catch shares starting in May 2010. We are working with several sectors to help them develop business plans as they begin fishing under catch share management. We will continue to sponsor fishermen's exchanges where catch shares have already been successfully operating.


The failure of conventional fishing management is emptying the nation’s oceans of seafood, destroying marine habitats, and is causing serious economic damage. In the US., only about 25% of fish stocks are sustainably managed. Key fisheries have collapsed, such as New England cod, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs and the demise of fishing communities. Mismanaged fisheries cost the global economy $50 billion every year. U.S. law requires fishery managers to put annual catch limits and accountability measures in place by 2011. Fishery closures are sure to increase under the status quo as managers attempt to comply with the law. Catch shares can reverse this trend, creating more jobs, while fish stocks rebound. Fisheries in North America that are managed under catch shares have seen an 80% increase in revenues in five years of implementation. New England now has the opportunity to recover its groundfish fishery, and demonstrate the benefits of catch shares.

Amount Approved
$25,000.00 on 5/28/2010 (Check sent: 6/16/2010)

  Related Organizations
Environmental Defense Fund  

NE boat.JPG

NE boat photo2.JPG

Fisherman exchange in Galveston
Fisherman exchange in Galveston

NE boat.JPG
NE boat photo2.JPG
Fisherman exchange in Galveston
Fishermen adapt to new rules.docx (Doc)
providence journal article.docx (Doc)
New Fishing quota system gains support.docx (Doc)


Barbara A McCullough
Senior Foundations Officer, Environmental Defense
Jessica Morten
Development Assistant, Institutional Giving
Margaret Henkels
Foundations Officer
Robin Hinton
Institutional Giving Coordinator, Environmental Defense Fund
Sharon Nadel
Grant Writer

Posted 3/31/2010 12:51 PM
Updated   12/13/2012 5:39 PM

  • Nonprofit

© 2024 Alex C. Walker Foundation