Massachusetts Food System Collaborative
Massachusetts Food System Collaborative

Fishing: Goal 1

The marine ecosystem will be resilient and will sustain the seafood industry.

Globally, marine biodiversity and fish stocks face multiple threats. Unsustainable fishing practices pressure some fish stocks. Increased temperature and acidification of ocean waters caused by climate change impede development or compel habitat migration of fish and shellfish. Land use policies that do little to prevent shoreline real estate development compromise sensitive marine ecosystems. Eutrophication and pollution caused by runoff impacts plant and animal species diversity, water quality, and vitality of the aquatic ecology.

Agencies including EOEEA’s Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), and MassDEP are responsible for marine fishing regulations and conservation efforts that balance economic activity in the seafood industry with aquatic species and habitat management, preservation, and restoration. Significant conservation efforts by these agencies and others have helped maintain the remarkable biodiversity of the State.[1] Sustainable fishing operation practices also contribute to improved biodiversity. The small scale of these operations naturally limits the impacts on species stocks, and expanding markets for underutilized species means that more by-catch is landed. Increasingly, the benefits of shellfish habitat restoration are being recognized as important to habitat restoration and a growing industry. Restoration projects improve water quality, remove excess nutrients from coastal ecosystems, and provide spawning habitat for commercial fishing species. In the face of the complex pressures to species stocks and habitat in Massachusetts waters, ongoing efforts must be supported to anticipate impacts and work proactively to protect marine ecosystems.

Recommendation 1.1: Encourage sustainable fishing practices that protect fish and shellfish stock and habitat.

Action 1.1.1: Fund existing and new programs that support marine ecosystem protection and restoration, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) focus on wetland protection and carbon sequestration, efforts by Massachusetts towns and their partners on eelgrass and oyster reef restoration projects, and Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership’s restoration projects.

Action 1.1.2: Improve data collection methods, systems, and technology for ‘fishery dependent’ and ‘fishery independent’ fish stocks. NOAA’s Northeast Federal Fishery Dependent Data Visioning project and the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program are leads in fishery dependent data collection.

Action 1.1.3: Investigate reallocating state fishing quotas based on projected changes in fish distribution. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Management and Science Committee and other entities’ research, monitoring, and advocacy efforts toward this action item should be supported.

Recommendation 1.2: Support shellfish operations and management.

Action 1.2.1: Develop more resources for technical assistance, such as cooperative extension, for the aquaculture industry.

Action 1.2.2: Provide funding to improve shellfish management and stock assessments.

Action 1.2.3: Ensure continued and expanded permitting for shellfish habitat projects.

Action 1.2.4: Develop solutions to address property owners’ disputes regarding adjacent shellfish habitat projects.

Action 1.2.5: Study the ecological benefits of no-take oyster reserves.

Action 1.2.6: Pilot the use of oysters, clams, and natural system restoration techniques to remove nitrogen and phosphorous from coastal waters. Such interventions can serve as alternatives to sewer systems that function to remove nutrients from wastewater plumes.

Action 1.2.7: Develop oyster, clam, and mussel beds as a method of enhancing marine ecosystems.

Action 1.2.8: Fund oyster, clam, mussel, and other shellfish seed hatcheries.

[1] Manomet and Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (2010). Climate Change and Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife, Volume 1, Introduction and Background. Accessed September 2015 from

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Massachusetts Food System Collaborative