Publication Detail

The Decline of Fisheries Resources in New England: Evaluating the Impact of Overfishing, Contamination, and Habitat Degradation

Robert Buchsbaum, Judith A Pederson, William E Robinson
174 pp.
MITSG 05-05
$35.00 DOM / $50.00 INT

This book emerged from one of several issue papers sponsored by the Technical Advisory Committee of the Massachusetts Bays Program, one of the National Estuary Programs funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. When this project was started, the crisis in New England groundfish populations was not nearly as much in the public consciousness as it is now. The authors thought it useful to put together a volume that examined the scientific evidence for effects of three major factors overfishing, pollution, and habitat degradation on northeast finfish, lobsters, and shellfish populations. During the intervening years since this project began, the public became increasingly aware of the seriousness of the crisis through numerous newspaper articles, scientific publications, public forums, and political activities. The closure of large parts of Georges Bank to groundfishing, and the recent passage by the New England Fishery Management Council of measures to further reduce fishing mortality focused much attention on the effect that overfishing may have on marine ecosystems and the fishing communities that depend on those ecosystems. While not universal, a number of improvements have been documented in various fishery stocks. Probably the most notable change is in the northeast groundfishery, where several species populations have increased as a result of the drastic measures implemented to reduce fishing pressure (e.g. closure areas, severe restrictions in the number of days a fisherman can fish). However these are still nowhere near their historic high numbers and some would argue they are not sustainable. A remarkable recovery has occurred in North Atlantic Swordfish stocks but debate continues over Maine's native salmon populations, even while their numbers remain per- ilously low. The loss of habitat, uncertainty in the primary cause of mortality, and small wild populations may limit a successful comeback to a thriving fishery. The story with lobsters is mixed. Lobster populations have drastically fallen in southern New England, with a concern that the same trend may be about to happen throughout the region. Questions continue to be raised as to whether the lobster decline is due to pollution, habitat degradation, or disease, rather than simply to overfishing. Fluctuations and trends in bivalve stocks continue to be difficult to assess. Shellfish are also at risk.

type: Books

Parent Project

Project No.: 2003-A-5
Title: MIT Sea Grant Center for Coastal Resources

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