Research

Carla with LobsterOur work at Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries is based on current and ongoing research on fish populations and dynamics, impacts of climate change on fisheries, and the interdependence of sea-run and marine fish species. This research is providing critical findings to inform changes in fisheries management policies as New England works to both restore depleted groundfish populations and respond to changing climate and ecosystem conditions.

What we know

  • The marine ecosystem and associated human communities are increasingly impacted by variable and changing environmental conditions.
  • Many marine fish populations are differentiated at geographic scales much smaller than previously understood, as shown in recent research including that by Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries co-founder and MacArthur Award winner Ted Ames.
  • Fisheries science has shown that setting catch limits for an area that contains more than one subpopulation of a fish species can inadvertently cause sequential overfishing of individual sub-components of a stock.
  • Freshwater and marine fish species are linked and interdependent. The removal of dams and other conservation activities throughout Downeast Maine is leading to a greater abundance of sea-run fish, which are crucial for groundfish restoration.

What will it take to rebuild fish stocks?

Rebuilding fish populations requires rethinking how we manage the fish. The persistent groundfish depletion facing eastern Maine fishermen is no longer unique to eastern Maine. The groundfish picture today, from Connecticut to Maine, is bleak. People cite numerous problems: big boats catching too many fish inshore, years of discarded bycatch, seal and dogfish predation, unwanted catch in the herring fishery, and many others. While each of these factors likely play a role, at Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, we believe that the primary sources of the problem are three-fold: 1) a lack of protection of the groundfish forage base – including herring and alewives, 2) lack of groundfish protection during critical life stages, including for juvenile and spawning fish, and 3) lack of protection of critical habitat.