The Long Haul

The Future of New England's Fisheries

This summer, we’re taking an in-depth look at the current state and future prospects of New England’s fisheries.

Starting Monday, July 8th, we’re spending two weeks delving into these issues. We invite you to share your thoughts, your questions, and your stories.

Let us hear from you in our Online Survey, as we identify priorities for the future of the fisheries.

The federal law that mandates fishery management sets ten national standards that all fishing regulations must meet. But those standards are somewhat vague and sometimes even contradictory. They set managers the difficult task of protecting fish stocks while simultaneously preserving fishing communities. They’re also supposed to ensure that fishing rights are distributed fairly and equitably.

Thanks to those who've taken our Long Haul poll. You've reminded us that, for all our differences, we agree on some fundamental issues in fisheries.

Elspeth Hay

As fishing areas close in the face of dwindling stocks, we look at what the hopes are among fishing folks for the future. In some areas -- such as lobsters, scallops and striped bass -- there are success stories that can be looked at to determine what is going right. But other areas of the sea are closed, and some wonder if they will stay that way. 



Trying to keep track of Who's Who when it comes to New England's Fisheries can be very confusing. In an attempt to clear up some of the confusion, here is your 4-minute Video Guide to the Players. It's a high-speed, information-packed chalkboard illustration - check it out.

Explore all of our fisheries coverage, including original reporting and our Online Survey.


Brian Morris / WCAI

As the people who work the sea for food face growing challenges - such as fewer fish to catch and more stringent regulations - shellfish farming is flourishing. It’s commonly called aquaculture, and while it surely has pitfalls, more and more people are entering the business and making a decent living at it. Demand is high, and prices are relatively stable.

Wellfleet in particular is known as a hotbed for oyster farming, and the shellfish growing areas along the town’s inner shoreline continue to be productive.

Ernie Eldredge at the helm of one of three boats he and his crew use for tending their weirs in Nantucket Sound, near Chatham.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

For decades, fishery management has focused almost exclusively on the need to restrict fishing. Now, environmental changes are forcing fishermen and regulators to reevaluate their traditional practices.

Ernie Eldredge has been fishing all his life - clamming, long-lining cod, and crewing on sea scallop boats. But weir fishing is his love and mainstay. Last May, Eldredge netted something (or rather, two somethings) that even he’d rarely seen before – an Atlantic croaker and a grey triggerfish.

As water temperatures rise and southern species become more common in New England's waters, there's the question of whether they could replace the region’s iconic cod - ecologically, economically, and culturally.


With high demand for predator species like tuna and salmon, wealthy nations like the U.S. convert "reduction" species such as anchovies, mackerel, and sardines into feed for salmon and other farmed animals – even though these overlooked fish are packed with health-boosting Omega-3 fatty acids and could feed millions.

Sean Corcoran / WCAI

The benefits of seafood are well known. Omega 3s from fish are good for metabolism, while fish oil is thought to help with inflammation in the body. But consumption of certain species of fish can pose health risks, particularly for pregnant women and children.

In a marine biology lab at Roger Williams University, Professor David Taylor placed a small, bite-sized chunk of fish inside a counter-top piece of equipment called a DMA-8 mercury analyzer, which will determine how much mercury this piece of scup contains in its flesh.

Weir fishing has a long history involving few technological changes.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

Innovation is a relative term. It all depends on where you're starting from. Here are three examples from New England's diverse fisheries:

1. Don't Fix What Ain't Broke

Shareen Davis

Often what gets left out in discussions of fishing are the families that fishermen leave onshore. The spouse and children, as much as the fishermen themselves, are shaped by an all-consuming job that abounds in uncertainty and risk. Shannon Eldredge grew up with a fisherman father.

Victor Young

Which fish are commonly caught in New England? Here are just a few.

Steve Junker / WCAI

Sunrise was half-an-hour off, the sky was brightening, and already fishermen were stationed along the Cape Cod Canal every ten or twenty yards: each a solitary figure, casting, retrieving, and casting again.

Each year, The Ocean Conservancy, an environmental organization, hosts an international coastal clean-up. During the 2012 clean-up, more than 10 million pounds of debris was collected. Below are the top items found:


1. Cigarettes and Cigarette Filters

2. Food Wrappers and Containers

3. Plastic Beverage Bottles

4. Plastic Bags

5. Plastics Caps and Lids

6. Cups, Plates, Forks, Knives and Spoons

7. Straws and Stirrers

8. Glass Beverage Bottles

9. Beverage Cans

When it comes to the future of New England’s fisheries, questions are raised about the health of the ocean itself. Especially when it comes to plastic. One of the many people concerned about the health of our oceans is Jeffrey M. Brodeur. He is a communications and outreach specialist with the Woods Hole Sea Grant program, and runs many beach clean ups based around marine debris and plastic pollution. We asked Brodeur about his work with marine debris, and how he found himself working for Sea Grant.