Today (May 1) is the start of the groundfish (cod, haddock, flounders) fishing year for New England fishermen. That seems kinda weird, doesn't it? We thought so and wanted to figure out how May 1 became the day we turned over the calendar for the groundfish fishery.
We reached out to Tom Nies, the Executive Director of the New England Fishery Management Council to get some answers and he put it pretty bluntly.
"It is an accident of history"
In June of 1993, between rocking out to That's The Way Love Goes by Janet Jackson and heading to the theaters to watch Jurrasic Park, the New England Fishery Management Council approved Amendment 5 to the New England Fishery Management Plan. This plan began the process of creating a system of effort controls to limit catch in the form of "days out" for the fishery. This is commonly referred to as the days at sea system in New England.
Strangely enough though, while the document limited the number of days a boat could fish in any given year, it did not include any definition of the fishing year. It did include this language relative to future adjustments to measures:
“After receiving public comment, the Council must take action (to forward or not to forward) on the recommendation at the NEFMC second Council meeting following the meeting at which it received the recommendations. The Council will submit its annual recommendations by November 1 for such recommended adjustments to take effect by January 1.”
This implies management should be based on a calendar year which honestly would be so much easier for science, management, and my brain.
Unfortunately, the Council approval was followed by a drawn-out back and forth between the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Council for many months.
The final rule for Amendment 5 was published on March 1, 1994. but NMFS delayed implementation of the effort controls section until May 1.
This was followed by Framework 1 to the FMP. This framework formally established May 1- April 30 as the fishing year which we still use today. The rationale was mainly to make sure the first year allocations of DAS were available for a full year.
And that's the rest of the story.