Massachusetts Food System Collaborative
Massachusetts Food System Collaborative

Fishing: Goal 5

Research will help the fishing and aquaculture industries grow sustainably.

Since the mid-1990s funding for seafood industry research has been cut significantly, and important research and product development facilities have closed altogether. Saltonstall-Kennedy federal research grants have been reduced by more than 85 percent since the 1980s.[1] Similar funding for cooperative fisheries research is not available from the State. Two research laboratories closed in the mid-1990s. One remaining research center in Gloucester has limited its research scope to species with already strong markets, and has reduced its focus on seafood product research and development.[2] As the Massachusetts fishing community has faced significant challenges from foreign seafood trade’s domination of the industry, the limitations to seafood research and funding have further complicated the industry’s ability to respond.

A comprehensive research strategy is essential to identifying priorities to sustain local fishing operations. Broadly, this research should include a thorough assessment of the seafood supply chain, which examines the complex challenges of the industry. Specifically, local seafood advocates have already identified some opportunities in market and product development for underutilized finfish species, like Arcadian redfish, dogfish, and scup. Such ongoing and new areas of research should be supported as an integral part of sustaining small fishing operations and growing local seafood supply.

Recommendation 5.1: Conduct research to advance the fishing and aquaculture industries.

Action 5.1.1: Assess ongoing research in the fishing and aquaculture industries, and develop a research agenda that complements and builds on ongoing studies.

Action 5.1.2: Conduct a comprehensive seafood system plan, similar to the Massachusetts Food System Plan, that looks at all aspects of the seafood supply chain in detail, and develops goals and recommendations for the local seafood industry.

Action 5.1.3: Review the 1995 ‘Aquaculture White Paper and Strategic Plan’ and subsequent revisions, and conduct new research to identify current challenges and opportunities in the industry.

Action 5.1.4: Research land-based aquaculture to identify opportunities and strategies for innovation and enterprise development.

Action 5.1.5: Study climate conditions including sea level rise, severe storms, and ocean acidification, and assess the impact of these on the marine ecosystems, estuaries, and fisheries.

Action 5.1.6: Increase funding for cooperative research that improves the fishing industry’s ability to adapt to changes in fish populations and ensure stock resiliency.

Action 5.1.7: Commit State funding and grants to expanded research for local seafood product development and sustainable fish and shellfish operation innovation, with an eye toward expanding markets for underutilized species.

Action 5.1.8: Revive and expand seafood science research and development laboratories.

[1] NOAA Greater Atlantic Region Fisheries Office. (2015). Greater Atlantic Region 2015 Saltonstall-Kennedy Recommended Projects. Webpage accessed October 2015 from

[2] Valerie Nelson (2015) white paper on the Massachusetts seafood system. Unpublished.

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Massachusetts Food System Collaborative