Fisherman: Catch-Share Sectors 'Eliminate' Some Business

By Bob Seay   |   Friday, May 6, 2011
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May 6, 2011

More than half of New England's groundfish fleet has stayed at dock this season, citing the new catch shares management system as the reason and sparking a heated political battle. (Heather Goldstone/WGBH)

BOSTON — The New England fishing industry continues to experience growing pains. For some fishing families, however, it is more like convulsions. This time last year, in an effort to sustain and replenish ground fish stocks, the national marine Fisheries Service implemented a new regulatory system called sectors.

Sectors are essentially cooperatives that pool together fishing rights based on histories of members. Marine scientists and some fishermen viewed sectors as a step above the previous system, which set limits on the days that professional anglers could be at sea.

Last Friday, we spoke with a longtime Harwich fisherman Eric Hesse, who had an overall favorable view of the new rules. "I have been able to fish in a way that is more effective for my business than under days at sea. I've been able to market my fish more effectively, choose my fishing locations and actually which species I target."

But another fisherman, Tim Barrett, views it differently. Barrett has also been fishing since the mid-1980's out of Plymouth. He spoke to WGBH's Bob Seay about the problems he says sectors are causing for his work. "The sectors from my aspect have essentially elimiated all my commercial groundfishing for the winter. I've lost about 60 percent of my gross income, due to the fact that I've been given a low allocation."

Click the player above to listen to Barrett's full interview.

Devens Makes Plans Far Beyond Evergreen Solar

By Andrea Smardon   |   Friday, April 1, 2011
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Small design-manufacturing center Eglomise Designs is located in a renovated army building (exterior at left).(Andrea Smardon/WGBH)

FORT DEVENS, Mass. — The former army base Devens has been thrust into the spotlight as the place where alternative energy company Evergreen Solar built a manufacturing plant, then abruptly closed it, moving its operations to China.  But Evergreen is only part of a larger story of rapid economic change in Devens. 
Fifteen years ago, the army pulled out of Fort Devens, taking away 7,000 jobs, and leaving abandoned buildings and polluted land. The land was sold to a quasi-public agency now known as MassDevelopment.  The idea was that the former base would be cleaned up and transformed into an economic hub.

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Meg Delorier, chief of staff at MassDevelopment, says, “I would never have imagined that 15 years later Devens would look likes it looks today.” 
Delorier once lived at Fort Devens when her former husband was stationed there.  “There were a lot of people who thought that we would be lucky to have warehousing and distribution facilities and that would be it; those would be the companies that would be attracted to Devens because there were large, flat parcels of land,” Delorier said.
But that’s not all that’s come to Devens. The base does have some warehousing and packaging companies.  But it also has small businesses, and it’s been able to attract some prize life sciences and new energy technology companies like Evergreen Solar, American Superconductor, and Bristol Myers Squibb. 
DeLorier says one of the most important advantages that Devens has is fast-track permitting. There is a single body known as the Devens Enterprise Commission which reviews all applications within 75 days of submission.  

Former military barracks are pictured in the town of Devens, Mass. (AP)

“It’s an expedited permitting process which is time and usually money for a company.  That’s been one of the biggest attractions in Devens so far especially for the major employers,“DeLorier said.
But some nearby residents think there should be more time taken with these large projects.  Frank Maxant is a selectman for the town of Ayer. He says pharmaceutical company Bristoll Myers Squibb was permitted too quickly – a record 49 days.
Maxant says he was concerned about “millions of gallons of biochemically active soup,” which he said would have been located right near the town’s only high-yield aquifer. “They boasted about their permitting process when they were through. Did they boast about prudent they were, how careful they were to protect everybody’s interest, protect the environment?  They boasted about setting a speed record,” Maxant said. 
Staff from the Devens Enterprise Commision said they hired an environmental planner to review the application.  They defended the process and said it is possible to do a high quality plan review within that timeframe.
While economic development has moved quickly at Devens, the quest by residents to become an official town – remember, they’re still an army base -- is deadlocked.
The original reuse plan requires approval from the surrounding towns, and the residents in those towns don’t all agree. Frustrated with the stalemate, some Devens residents have petitioned the state legislature to bypass the towns and approve Devens as a municipality. 

Devens is hoping to bring new businesses to its former military and other available spaces. (Andrea Smardon/WGBH)

Rick Bernklow is one of those residents.  He’s also a professional real estate appraiser. He says he wants Devens to become a town so they can govern themselves, but he would also like to keep the special permitting process.
“There’s nothing else in the commonwealth matches that,“ Bernklow sad. “It is a primary generator for economic growth here. I see people everywhere trying to get things permitted take a year, 2 years, 3 years. I think the state has put expedited permitting in, they’ve given extra money to do it, and the towns that keep it will be better off economically.”
The downturn in the economy has affected Devens just as it has in the surrounding towns.  Even with incentives and expedited permitting, businesses are reluctant to start new projects.  But MassDevelopment staff say the phones are starting to ring again, and they’re cautiously optimistic more companies will chose Devens to locate their business. 

Obama's Budget Is Mixed Bag For Massachusetts

By Sarah Birnbaum   |   Tuesday, February 15, 2011
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Feb. 15, 2011

President Obama talks about his $3.7 trillion budget for 2012 during a news conference at the White House on Tuesday. (AP)

BOSTON — President Barack Obama unveiled his budget plan yesterday for the upcoming fiscal year.  It cuts back or eliminates some 200 federal programs -- and municipal officials in Massachusetts say they'll feel the pain. 
The budget is a mixed bag for Bay State, according to UMass Boston economist Christian Weller. He says the budget would preserve or expand funding for education and clean energy. Massachusetts, with its strong academic and tech sectors, could benefit from those investments.
"The good news for Massachusetts is continued spending in innovation, more money in research and development, particularly for renewable energies, more money for education, especially in k-12 and more support in college education," Weller said.
But experts say the budget also contains some bad news for the state: Proposed cutbacks in heating assistance for poor families would disproportionately affect New England, where winters are cold, although some observers say Congress is unlikely to accept the President's proposed $2 billion or more cut in the program.

And Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, says the president's planned reduction in so-called community development block grants would be particularly painful for Massachusetts cities and towns.  Beckwith says the grants fund a wide range of neighborhood improvements, everything from road repairs, to the Boys and Girls club to senior housing.
“So we’re talking about basic human services, leveraging housing, leveraging job creation, economic development projects.  These funds are irreplaceable really,” Beckwith said.
President Obama’s budget proposal is just the first move in the Capitol Hill spending debate. Republicans are calling for even steeper cuts.

Setting Catch Limits With Limited Information

By Heather Goldstone   |   Friday, February 4, 2011
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Rough Waters: Local Fishing Industry

By Phillip Martin   |   Friday, August 27, 2010
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More Rough Waters:
Part One: Rough Waters
Phillip Martin explores the history of Federal regulation of fishing.
Part Two: Rough Waters
Rachel Gotbaum examines the transition from "Days at Sea" to "Sectors."

Part Three: Rough Waters
Phillip Martin looks at the alarming decline in local fish populations.

Part Four: Rough Waters
Rachel Gotbaum profiles the historic fishing village of Port Clyde Maine--one of only three commercial groundfishing ports left in the state and where a group of fishermen are determined to save their fishery by trying some unorthodox ways of doing business.

Phillip Martin and Rachel Gotbaum on The Emily Rooney Show

Working Waterfront Festival
Celebrating Commercial Fishing, America's Oldest Industry
September 25 & 26, 2010
Port of New Bedford
It’s another summer night on the terrace of Slip 14 here in Nantucket and the working class is literally rubbing shoulders with the super wealthy. Conversations in the background are about yachts, Obama and Lady Gaga.  But fishermen, Ed and Tim Barrett, are talking with friends above the din about the state of fishing.  They’re speaking to the converted. The Barretts dock in Nantucket because the fishermen of Plymouth—from where they used to launch—have disappeared altogether.

Brother fishermen Tim and Ed Barrett. Photo: Phillip Martin
Slip 14 Restaurant Owner Jonas Baker scratches his head trying to recall where he first met the Barrett brothers.  “Eddie and Timmie?  It had to be over a beer somewhere…” he recalls.  He says the Barretts keep his restaurant stocked with fresh fish, but that the same federal restrictions on them are also affecting his business.  “They’re trying to meet a quota and usually their quota is caught by the end of our season,” explains Baker.  “So when they start fishing for fluke, we got fluke straight through, but once that quota shuts down, than the fish have got to come from somewhere and think that’s where the whole dilemma is coming with everything.”

Four hours after Slip 14 closes for the night, the Barretts are starting their day.  Older brother Ed has bought into the sector system that allows him to catch a certain allotment of fish.  Tim has too few catch-share or quota to qualify, so he works for his brother as part of a family venture.  But Ed—who has fished for 30 years— is not hopeful about the future.  “Honestly, it gets me very depressed these days thinking about the future,” he admits.  “And I know a lot of other people, especially from the South Shore feel the same way.  We’ve all lost access in terms of catch share allocation and I’m worried that we’re not going to get that back.”

The cloud-streaked sun has barely made its way over the horizon when they push off from the city owned pier and head out into the open water.  Ed is aboard the Sirius.  Tim commands the Odessa.  Hours later Tim surveys a Sonar screen streaked in blue and red markings, which designate fish in this area.  He Barrett pulls a lever and heavy steel doors on both sides of the boat lift and then disappear beneath the surface dragging a heavy mesh behind the boat.  “Sometimes you catch more fish than you thought you’d catch,” notes Tim.  “The nets are designed to release the smaller undersized fish.  Even the smaller illegal fish tend to get through the nets so we don’t have a lot of by catch.”

Wife and husband Kirsten and Reidar Bendiksen run Reidar’s Manufacturing, a small commercial fishing gear store in New Bedford. The store also serves as a place for fishermen to stop and talk shop while they wait for their order. Photo: Phillip Martin
Reidar Bendiksen of New Bedford fished for 30 years before he and his wife Kirsten opened an off-shore business that’s specializes in quality netting for fishermen—including the Barrett brothers by the way.   But Kirsten Bendiksen says they are seeing a lot fewer customers these days and she blames what she calls over-regulation of the fishing industry.  “If they were allowed to fish then they would be making more money,” she observes.  “They’d be fishing up their boats, they’d be spending more money on the economy, they’d be paying off their bills here and we wouldn’t be carrying bills month after month after month after month for a lot of our customers.  It’s a domino effect."

“It’s useless,” says Kirsten’s son Tor on the amount of wasted netting.  “The government didn’t take into effect the fact that we might have $100,000 dollars we have right now that we have to use up before we can go to the new size.

The Northeast fishing fleet has shrunk from a high of 1200 boats in the 1980’s to slightly more than 800 today.  Of these, about 200 are responsible for about 90 percent of the total catch.  US Senators representing New England and New York have asked President Obama to provide $50 million dollars in direct economic assistance to Northeast fishermen and $100 million in emergency aid for a voluntary groundfish permit buyback plan.  John Sackton, the editor of Seafood News, thinks it’s a good idea, “bbecause that can help a guy stay in business.”  According to Sackton, “if, let’s say, 10 to 12 percent of his revenue is going to come from ground fish, he can’t afford to go out and compete with a big boat to actually buy additional permits.  But he could go to his local permit bank and say I want you to lease me enough catch quota so I can maintain my vessel in this harbor.  I think that has been largely ignored in the design of the New England catch share program.  And I think it’s really time that this be taken a look at.”

Congressman Barney Frank, representing New Bedford and Fairhaven, describes himself as “very much interested” in protecting the environment, “As are the fishermen.”  “These are a people who have more of an interest in keep the supply of fish than anyone else,” Frank points out.  “And we should understand they are the most regulated workers that I know about what they can catch, where they can catch it, and how many days they can fish.  But I think you have had a bias frankly in the regulatory structure that has always erred on the side of too little fish.”

Frank recently rescinded his call for Jane Lubchenco, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to be fired at the request of the Obama Administration.  He says the option is still on the table.   But NOAA administrators and policy makers say they are merely trying to balance the need to preserve fish stocks with the livelihoods of fishing families.  “If it were easy to balance it would be done by now,” says Tom Warren, a policy analyst with NOAA’s Northeast Regional Office in Gloucester.  “You're trying to balance both preserving Mother Nature, which is highly complex and dynamic, and preserving somebody's livelihood.  And the fishing business is also highly complex and dynamic.

Fisherman Tim Barrett does not disagree on the larger point.  “We have about a 90 percent retention rate on our targeted species,” he says.  “Your livelihood depends on the health of the eco-system out here.”

It’s mid-day and he’s heading back to port in Nantucket.  Several yachts pass by.  On one 40-foot vessel, a man with a drink in his hand waves and a woman in a bikini looks skyward toward the  noontime sun.  Barrett figures he’s brought in about $900 dollars in scup and flounder today after seven hours at sea.   Altogether, it’s a good haul.   But he looks worried as he looks for a slip to dock his weather beaten boat

“We’ve lost a fair amount of working waterfront to marinas, condominiums, gentrification of the waterfront property,” he explains, taking a weighty pause.  “We find ourselves being displaced into smaller and smaller working areas in each harbor.”

Tim Barrett says the same point can be made about the state of fishing communities throughout New England.  Attention now shifts to Washington, where regional politicians from both parties are trying to pry money from a deficit-weary administration, and to modify ocean conservation rules that many fear may have gone too far. 


Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four

Rough Waters: The Ongoing Fight Over Regulating New England Fisheries" is a multi-part series produced by 89.7 WGBH Radio.

Phillip Martin – senior investigative reporter
Rachel Gotbaum – reporter
Steve Young – editor and executive producer
Katie Broida – photographer and researcher
Nic Campos – researcher
Jane Pipik - engineer

Rough Waters: Port Clyde

By Rachel Gotbaum   |   Friday, August 27, 2010
0 Comments   0 comments.


More Rough Waters:
Part One: Rough Waters
Phillip Martin explores the history of Federal regulation of fishing.
Part Two: Rough Waters
Rachel Gotbaum examines the transition from "Days at Sea" to "Sectors."

Part Three: Rough Waters
Phillip Martin looks at the alarming decline in local fish populations.

Part Five: Rough Waters
Phillip Martin reports on how new conservation rules are affecting the lives of those in the local fishing industry.

Phillip Martin and Rachel Gotbaum on The Emily Rooney Show

Working Waterfront Festival
Celebrating Commercial Fishing, America's Oldest Industry
September 25 & 26, 2010
Port of New Bedford

Over the years dwindling fish stocks and strict federal regulations have taken a toll on Maine’s ground fishing industry. Now there are only three ports left in the state where commercial fisherman can catch haddock, cod, flounder and other species of ground fish in local waters. Port Clyde is one of the ports that remain.  It’s also where a determined group of fishermen have formed some unusual alliances to try to rebuild their fishery and revive their traditional way of life.

Port Clyde is a small village where almost everyone is a fisherman or related to one.  Dougie Anderson has been fishing there since he first went out with his grandfather when he was five years old. He says that when Port Clyde’s waters were teeming with fish, “we fished on them primarily when they were spawning because that was when they were thickest. They were easy to catch and vulnerable and you could get 10 thousand in a small boat.  We caught them when they were spawning and that was wrong. There’s been a lot of mistakes in the fishing business.”

One of those mistakes says Anderson is that by the 1970s the government began paying people to fish so Americans could compete with the large international foreign fishing fleets.  “All of sudden we got a brand new fleet coming here with more horse power and technology.  Virtually the fish had no place to hide.”

In those days Port Clyde had several large fish processing plants, three general stores and businesses were thriving. But that’s gone now.  Years of over fishing and increased federal regulation took a toll on Maine fishermen and most of the ground fish ports in the state went out of business. Fishermen in Port Clyde managed to hang on until a few years ago when the government cut down the days they were allowed to fish once again and at the same fuel prices skyrocketed.

Port Clyde fisherman Gary Libby. Photo: Raviya Ismail and Earthjustice

“When the fuel price spiked that was almost the last straw right there,” recalls Glenn Libby, a 40-year Port Clyde fisherman. “You weren’t making much money, you getting behind on your bills.  It was easy to think about giving up.  The few fishermen that remained are stuck with these boats that are now pretty much worthless because nobody wants them.

At this time stakeholders in the New England fishing industry were meeting to determine how fishermen were going to comply with new federal mandates to create a sustainable fishery.  It was in those meetings with other fishermen, policy makers and environmentalists that Glenn Libby and the fishermen from Port Clyde began to come up with new ideas. One idea was to do their own processing and also market their fish directly to the public so they would get a better price.  Libby recalls a lot of resistance, including his own.  “We were like, ‘are you kidding me? Marketing and processing we don’t know anything about that! That’s going to be too much work. We won’t be able to go fishing.’"

Larry Wood fillets a freshly caught fish at the Port Clyde fish prodcessing co-op. Photo: Raviya Ismail and Earthjustice

But the idea stuck. The Port Clyde fishermen formed a coop and like their farming neighbors who delivered quantities of fresh produce to customers each week they began to deliver freshly caught seafood to be picked up by those who signed up and paid for it in advance. It was a humble beginning.

“We started out with shrimp,” says Libby. “We had 30 people signed up for a five pound bag of shrimp each week.  That was more money than they would pay on the side of the road but they knew they were supporting the local fleet.  And you started to realize that there’s a lot of people that want this local food.”

Last year the Port Clyde cooperative opened their own fish processing plant.  A few men stand around a table and fillet cod. When they are done they vacuum pack the fish and send it out to farmer’s markets, health food stores and restaurants along the east coast.  Libby helps run the operation, which has grown from two to 23 employees since it opened a year ago.

Crab meat from Port Clyde Fresh Catch has grown in popularity with local chefs like the Liberty Hotel's Joseph Margate, who uses it to make Jonah Crab Salad. Photo: Liberty Hotel

Most of the sales so far come from selling weekly shares of fish delivered to the public at farmer’s markets. But Port Clyde Fresh Catch –as it is now known—is also attractive to a growing number of chefs who are responding to the demand for local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients.   In the kitchen at the liberty hotel in Boston Chef Joseph Margate is tasting the crab cake mixture.  He says, “It’s the sweetest crab I’ve ever had.”

Margate bought the crab from the Port Clyde fishermen and says he orders fish from them whenever he can. It’s better quality, its good for business, and “it’s boat to table.”  “To put that your fish comes from Port Clyde is a better story than just ‘Atlantic halibut,” says Margate. “It’s a better story between the guest and the server. ”

So far Port Clyde Fresh Catch is not making much of a profit but business is growing.  John Sackton, the editor of Seafood News, says because of greater restrictions on fishing, what is happening in Port Clyde may work as a model for many small boat fishermen struggling to stay in the industry.  “The fishermen don’t have the ability to make up their business by way of volume, which is the old mentality,” says Sackton. “That’s what’s leading some of the fishermen to think about adding value, handling the fish better.  By making it a more valuable product it allows them to stay on the water and stay in the business.”

The fishermen in Port Clyde have created a new business model and part of that model includes changing the way they fish. The goal is to fish sustainably and help restore the fishery.

Back at the Port Clyde harbor Glenn Libby’s brother Gary Libby shows off his new environmentally conscious “Seven inch cod end” fishing net.  “It’s the very end of the net where the fish end up,” he explains.  “It’s larger than the legal size mesh to let smaller fish out. It will hopefully be more sustainable and rebuild the fish stocks at a faster rate and recover fishing so that we’re not the last fishermen in Port Clyde.”

Gary Libby and the fishermen in Port Clyde have teamed up with environmental groups that historically have been at odds with them. But they all have found they share a common goal—they want to restore the fishery. Peter Baker of Pew Environment Group is helping to fund the effort of fishermen he has “known inPort Clyde for a couple of years now.”  He notes, “they have a real commitment for trying something new.  At every turn they are trying to figure out how to do things the right way.  It’s really a forward thinking way that built out of necessity.  The only way we are going to make it is fish smarter rather than fish harder.” 

The Fishermen in Port Clyde say they are starting to see greater numbers of fish in the waters here again but Glenn Libby says the changes they are making now will take generations.  “I’ve got a 15-year-old grandson and all he wants to do is go fishing and if we don’t have a viable business he is not going to be able to do it.   If there’s enough of us doing things like this we can turn the tide but its gonna take a lot of us.”

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Five

Rough Waters: The Ongoing Fight Over Regulating New England Fisheries" is a multi-part series produced by 89.7 WGBH Radio.

Phillip Martin – senior investigative reporter
Rachel Gotbaum – reporter
Steve Young – editor and executive producer
Katie Broida – photographer and researcher
Nic Campos – researcher
Alan Mattes - engineer

About the Authors
Bob Seay Bob Seay
Bob Seay is the host of NPR's Morning Edition on 89.7FM WGBH Radio. He got his start in radio during college at WMUH, got involved with WGBH TV while in graduate school at Boston University and formerly hosted ME at WRNI in Rhode Island.
Sarah Birnbaum
Sarah Birnbaum is WGBH News' State House reporter. Send her a news tip.
Heather Goldstone Heather Goldstone
Heather Goldstone is the science editor at WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR Station. She holds a Ph.D. in ocean science from M.I.T. and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and spent a decade as an active researcher before leaving the lab to become a writer. In her nine years with the Cape and Islands NPR Station, Goldstone has reported on Woods Hole’s unique scientific community and key environmental issues on Cape Cod. Her reporting has appeared in venues ranging from NPR and PBS News Hour, to Cape Cod Times and Commercial Fishery News. Most recently, Goldstone hosted the blog Climatide – an exploration of how climate change is impacting coastal life in the region. 
Phillip Martin Phillip Martin
Phillip W. D. Martin is the senior investigative reporter for WGBH Radio News and executive producer for Lifted Veils Productions. In the past, he was a supervising senior editor for NPR, an NPR race relations correspondent and one of the senior producers responsible for creating The World radio program in 1995. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1998. Learn more at


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