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Understanding and Supporting the Monkfish Fishery

Jun 1, 2011
Spring 2011

Fishermen are wary as the New England Fishery Management Council considers a shift to catch shares in the monkfish fishery. The change might mean that fishermen would receive an annual allocation of fish, either individually or through a cooperative, rather than days-at-sea and daily catch limits. At the same time, there is uncertainty about whether monkfish from the Gulf of Maine to North Carolina is one stock or two. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute is assisting fishermen and managers to address these questions.

GMRI Demersal Ecologist Graham Sherwood recently presented research suggesting that monkfish (Lophius americanus) may be one stock, although it is managed as two. Along with Benthic Ecologist Jonathan Grabowski, Sherwood has been collaborating with fishermen to tag and track over 8,000 monkfish since 2007. They use tags that record release and recapture locations, as well as data storage tags that also record time, temperature, and pressure every ten minutes.

Sherwood, who serves on the council's Monkfish Plan Development Team, said: "It's been invaluable to work with fishermen to obtain monkfish movement data and then convey information directly to managers. This program is likely to have major implications for the fishery."

GMRI's Community team is also involved in the exploration of a monkfish management change. Our staff surveyed fishermen and participated in council meetings, providing information on the steps needed to develop and adopt a catch share system. If the council decides to move forward, GMRI is poised to hold a series of meetings for fishermen and managers to discuss and refine proposals outside of the formal council process.