Project Report:
Designing a Monitoring and Reporting System to Support Market-Based Approaches to Fishery Management in New England

- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


Support from the Alex C. Walker Foundation in 2008 enabled the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to take a lead role in supporting the transition of the New England groundfish fishery to harvesting cooperatives called sectors (a type of catch share management). GMRI provided sector members and policymakers with a clear analysis of the options and costs of phasing in a new system to enable timely and accurate monitoring of each group’s catch. In June 2009, the New England Fishery Management Council authorized the creation of 16 new sectors, marking a significant shift toward a market-based approach to managing fisheries. The new rules will take effect in May 2010.

GMRI Teaching Auditorium
This auditorium and teaching facility enables Maine students to use scientific tools and methods to investigate the state's fresh and saltwater ecosystems. The Gulf of Maine's research and educational expertise has been invaluable in making the transition to more sustainable management. (Photo by Barrett Walker on site visit.)


The New England groundfish fishery is in the midst of a major paradigm shift in fishery management. In June 2009, the New England Fisheries Management Council approved applications by 16 new groups of fishermen looking to opt out of the current effort control system of management to form harvesting cooperatives called “sectors”. These self-organized groups of fishery permit holders represent the majority of the active fleet. At the start of the 2010 fishing season in May, each group will receive an annual quota for each of the groundfish species they catch (as many as 15) in return for devising and implementing a legally binding plan to keep their total catch at or below their allocation. An easy way to think about this is to imagine that each group of fishermen starts the year with a bank account of each type of fish. Each time they go fishing, their catch is subtracted from their accounts.

Sector members will be jointly and severally liable if they overdraw these quota accounts. They will be allowed to trade with other sectors to balance their quota to their actual catch. It became apparent early on in the development of this new system that the success of sectors hinged on developing and implementing a system of monitoring and reporting measures that is adequate to ensure that all catch is accounted for – in as near real time as possible.

With funding from the Walker Foundation, GMRI undertook to assist fishermen and policy makers in addressing this significant challenge. We arranged and facilitated numerous meetings between monitoring experts, sector organizers, and NMFS to determine the objectives and requirements for a monitoring and reporting system for sectors. GMRI commissioned Howard McElderry, principal of Archipelago Marine Research, and Bruce Turris, principal of Pacific Fisheries Management Inc., to assess monitoring and reporting needs for sector management in New England. We organized a series of meetings in which McElderry and Turris met with industry, Council, government and other stakeholders to evaluate monitoring objectives and needs. McElderry and Turris produced two reports which were presented to stakeholders and the NEFMC detailing monitoring needs, proposing methods, and estimating costs of implementation and operation of the system. A final report was produced in August 2008.

A pdf summary of the final report can be downloaded at the following address:

The full report can be downloaded at:

A key indicator of success of GMRI’s efforts on this project was that the recommendations from these reports were adopted during the Amendment 16 process. GMRI also managed a joint industry-government Monitoring Working Group to develop plans for implementing monitoring and reporting systems. Maintaining a spirit of cooperation among sector proponents, Council staff and NMFS in the Monitoring Working Group has been challenging at times, given the extraordinary pressure to finalize the requirements and timetables for implementing dockside and at-sea monitoring. The Working Group has played an important role in connecting sector organizers with potential third-party vendors to ensure that the required dockside monitoring is in place when sectors begin operation. When sectors begin operating in May 2010, 50% of their landings are to be monitored at the dock by a certified third party. In 2011, monitoring coverage is expected to be reduced to 20%.

From the McElderry/Turris report we learned that the cost of adequate monitoring for sectors relative to the current value of the fishery will be higher than expected, thus creating a serious barrier to implementation. There is justifiable concern that these costs cannot be supported by industry in early years without subsidy. One positive outcome of this has been a recognition among the sector proponents of a need to work together to secure funding. A unique coalition of industry groups has put forward a request to Congress to fund a monitoring program and GMRI has provided support to their effort.

On October 1, 2009 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that it would make $1.5 million available to groundfish industry to offset organizational development and monitoring costs for managing fishing sectors. GMRI has been selected to administer this pool of federal pass-through funds to help sectors cope with these challenges. GMRI has also been awarded funds to assess the overall effectiveness and efficiency of dockside monitoring in the upcoming fishing year. Under the newly proposed management system, fish removals - both retained and discarded - count against a sectors allocation. The news release can be viewed at

An important key to our success in this effort has been close collaboration with the Environmental Defense Fund, the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association, the Northeast Seafood Coalition, and many other fishing industry members, scientists, and policy makers.

Watch a video of Vito Giacalone, Executive Director, Northeast Seafood Coalition, Glouchester, MA at


Movement toward sectors the New England is a significant step toward realizing a market-based approach to fishery management. Groundfish is the first New England fishery to move away from command and control strategies toward a system that creates economic incentives to utilize a fixed amount of allowable catch most efficiently. Trading of quota both among sector members and between sectors will create markets to allow catch privileges to flow to those who can use them most efficiently and create incentives to avoid species of concern.

Without a more robust monitoring system, sectors may also create incentives to discard unwanted catch for which fishermen have insufficient quota or to misreport catches. The National Marine Fisheries Service has indicated a lack of resources to address this need and has placed responsibility on industry. GMRI has played an important role in assisting fishermen and policy makers in designing and funding the early years of a phased-in plan to provide the assurance of accurate monitoring and reporting.


This project has been regional in scope but will provide a model for solutions that may be transferable to other regions exploring a variety of catch-share management systems. By working with Howard McElderry, Vice President, Archipelago Marine Research Ltd., and Bruce Turris, President, Pacific Fisheries Management Inc., GMRI helped leverage lessons learned in British Columbia for use in New England. Fisheries around the country are now watching to see whether sectors will achieve much hoped for conservation and socioeconomic goals.

Information Dissemination

GMRI has presented a detailed plan for a proposed monitoring system to NOAA staff and interested sector members/managers. We have updated the description of our project above to reflect progress through December 2009. We look forward to providing additional insights as the evolution of sectors continues.

Project Link

Amount Approved
$25,000.00 on 5/29/2008 (Check sent: 9/16/2008)

Sector Monitoring Report Full Document (PDF)
Sector Monitoring Report Summary (PDF)
GMRI Teaching Auditorium
Meeting with Pat Kurkul and Kevin Chu

350 Commericial Street
Portland, ME 04101

(207) 772-2321
(207) 772-6855 (fax)


Donald Perkins
President, Gulf of Maine Research Institu
Jill G. Harlow
Advancement Strategist, Gulf of Maine Research Institute
Mr. Jonathan Labaree
GMRI Sector Initiative Program Manager
Steve Eayrs
Scientist, Fish Behavior & Gear Technology

Posted 3/25/2008 9:56 AM
Updated   12/3/2009 2:28 PM

  • Nonprofit

Meeting with Pat Kurkul and Kevin Chu
Barrett Walker meeting with National Marine Fisheries Regional Director, Pat Kurkul and Scientist, Kevin Chu.

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