The Long Haul | CAI

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.

Crafting a Vision for the Future of Fisheries

Jul 22, 2013

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.

What We Agree On: Healthy Oceans, Sustainable Fisheries

Jul 19, 2013

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.


Aquaculture on the Rise Across the Cape and Islands

Jul 18, 2013
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.

Climate Change Forces Reevaluation of Fishery Management

Jul 17, 2013
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.

Fishery Smackdown: Cod vs. Croaker

Jul 17, 2013

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.

How Technological Innovation is Changing Fishing

Jul 15, 2013
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.

Combatting the Sea of Debris

Jul 12, 2013
Sean Corcoran / WCAI

Marine debris is a big issue for fishermen - for environmental, monetary and practical reasons. Things like lost lobster pots, spools of microfilament and lengths of rope are almost all plastics - bad for the ecosystem and its fish. The derelict gear, as its called, sometimes continues to catch fish, leaving them to die or drown. It also gets caught up in active fishing gear, causing all sorts of problems for the fishermen.

Social media provides fishermen, scientists, enthusiasts, chefs and anyone who loves or wants to learn about fishing a whole new way to connect. Instagram, one of the fastest growing social media platforms, connects users through photos, usually taken on their cell phones and posted into a feed you can follow. On any given morning, you can find a great fishing photo from Chef Kristian Sadler, who is an outdoorsman, and surf casting fisherman. His instagram feed is teeming with so many exciting fish-filled photos, we had to ask him about his love for fishing and photography.

Protected Seals Raise Many Questions

Jul 11, 2013
ClintJCL / flickr


In years past, seal hunters received a bounty of five dollars a nose to keep the population in check. Now, seals are federally protected, and their numbers have been steadily rebounding, with many thousands now living in local waters year-round. They’ve become a major tourist attraction, but local fishermen see the seals as just another threat to their livelihoods.


 A Big Attraction

Elspeth Hay

When it comes to commercial fishing, the little fish are just as important as the big ones. It’s the baitfish—smaller species like river herring and Atlantic herring—that support the entire commercial fishing industry. But baitfish stocks are dwindling. If these stocks don’t rebound, not only will fishermen be out of bait, they also may be out of fish.

Locals Notice Steep Decline

"Best Science" a Moving Target for Fishery Researchers

Jul 9, 2013
Fisheries is a dynamic and science-hungry business, as the recent price of cod demonstrates.

The Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 is the federal law that mandates and guides fishery management. It calls for regulations to be based on the best available science.

But what makes one piece of scientific information better than another? And who's to judge?

Here are a few possible definitions of best available science:

Rhode Island fisherman Joel Hovanesian points to the bumper sticker he says he created.
Heather Goldstone / WCAI

Tensions between fishermen and the scientists and managers that oversee their industry are more than just unpleasant. They actually affect the quality of fishery research and management.

There’s a catch phrase that’s adorned the tailgates of pick-up trucks up and down the New England coast for years:

National Marine Fisheries Service: Destroying Fishermen and Their Communities Since 1976.

Sometimes it's hard to see the big picture. When it comes to New England's fisheries, there are a lot of places and moving parts to consider. So, we thought we'd put them on a map. As we continue our series, The Long Haul, we'll identify the places we report from and reference. This is a map-in-progress, which means it will evolve with the diverse stories of the fisheries. Have a suggestion for something we should add? Comment below and help us build a better picture of our fisheries.

At the heart of all contemporary fishing stories - right next to the fishermen, themselves - are the regulations that constrain fishermen's activities.

Steve Junker / WCAI

These are challenging times for New England’s fisheries: there’s a history of overfishing to overcome; climate change is impacting habitat; many fishermen don’t trust the science which attempts to quantify the fish stocks; and government regulators, who rely on the science, are hard-pressed to chart a path forward to a sustainable fishery.

As part of WCAI's exploration of the future New England's fisheries, we're talking to the many people who are intertwined with the culture of fishing. They may be fishermen, scientists or - in this case - an artist. Joseph Warren is a painter who grew up around the ocean in Massachusetts. His paintings are reflections of his love for the sea, and feature fish, whales and other sea life. 

Where in Massachusetts did you grow up?