— Supporting Martha's Vineyard
small owner operated fishing fleets and their sustainably
harvested catch, for the Island's heritage and future.

What is a fishery?
The term fishery describes the practice of fishing for a specific species of fish, lobster, or shellfish while using specific gear type or technique. The term fishery may also refer to the specific geographical locations where certain fishing takes place.

What is bycatch?
Bycatch is fish, crab, lobster or other species that are caught unintentionally while targeting a different species.

Are lobsters and fish being over fished and harvested?
The fishing stocks go through many trends in abundance and decline.  This is partly due to fishing effort and partly due to natural trends in their eco systems and natural predation.   Many species in most U. S. waters have been overfished in the past, but as of late, have been primarily recovered, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).  The NMFS website ( lists the current status of each fishery.

What makes a fishery sustainable?
The factors that make a fishery sustainable vary depending on the characteristics of the species being fished.  Generally, a sustainable fishery involves the use of a gear type that does not have any bycatch, and does not injure or kill the fish by the pressure change from movement from the bottom of the ocean to the surface. This allows for extra or unwanted fish to be returned un-harmed.  A sustainable fishery is also very dependent on successful regulations that promote little or no discards, and place accurate harvest rates that enable stocks to properly maintain reproductive levels.

What constitutes United States waters?
U.S. waters range from 0-200 miles from the coast.  State waters generally extend from 0-3 miles from the shore. Federal waters make up the difference, 3-200 miles.

What is a trip boat?
A trip boat is a vessel that goes to sea for multiple days, weeks, and sometimes even months. Catches on these boats are either frozen at sea or iced, and will sit in the hold of the boat for the duration of the trip. Once unloaded from the dock, the fish is sent to a processor to be filleted/cleaned and then finally to the market, where the catch will be sold. At this point the catch is already older than the duration of the trip.

What is a day boat?
A day boat is a boat usually smaller in size than a trip boat. Day boats leave the dock in the morning and return to the dock in the evening. The day’s catch is sold upon arrival on the same day, providing markets and restaurants with fresh product.  Day boats typically fish closer to shore, where waters are shallower. Because of the shallower waters fished, day boats have a greater chance of returning extra or unwanted fish back to the sea alive. This is due to the smaller pressure gradient. When fish are hauled from deep waters to the surface, the pressure gradient is such that the organs of the fish will burst.

Over the last 20 years, failed policy and poorly designed fishing regulations have led to overfishing, promoting discards and has unfairly taken away many fishermen’s access to most fisheries. Because of the way these regulations have been orchestrated, much of the fishing quota and access has been consolidated. This typically means that larger boats from other ports, which often are owned by large corporations, are the ones left with access to our valuable resource. We are focusing on promoting what is left of our small boat fisheries and ultimately try to procure more access for our small owner-operated fishing fleets.

Small-boat owner-operated fishing fleets fish more responsibly and have a greater intrinsic interest on the fishery and generally use fishing gear that is more sustainable and healthier for the targeted species.

What are Martha’s Vineyard’s local fisheries?
Commercial fishing is very important to the Vineyard both economically and culturally. Commercial fishing has been apart of the Island’s life since humans have populated its shores. Throughout our history there have been ups and downs in certain types of fishing. This has been due to a variety of circumstances, ranging from stock levels to market interest, environmental impacts and most recently, regulation challenges. 

Ground Fishing
Ground fish consist of flounders, cod, haddock, and pollock. Groundfish can be caught with multiple types of fishing gear.
Tub trawls, which consist of a long main line with gangions, which are small lines that measure approximately 2-4 feet that have a baited hook tied to the end.  The fish get hooked when they eat the bait and the tub trawl is hauled back after a set amount of time.
Gillnetting, consists of net that ranges in different mesh sizes and can be tied down towards the ocean floor differently depending on whether you are targeting cod or flounders.  The fish swims into the net and catches itself in the mesh around its gills or gets its fins and spines tangled in the net. 
Trawling, consists of dragging a net with a heavy sinking cable called a sweep across the ocean floor. The net is wide at the mouth and has two doors at the end of the wings of the net. These doors act as plains to keep the wings of the next spread open to each side. The net tapers in and funnels into the bag towards the area of the net that holds the fish, called the cod end.  When the net is hauled back it will typically get rolled onto what is called a net drum. The cod end will hang above the deck, when the cod end is untied the fish fall out onto the deck of the boat from the bag.

Lobster fishing
Trapping, the lobster trap usually consists of wire or wooden mesh cage from 3-4 feet long that has a series of heads, openings in the nylon mesh inside the cage that lets the lobster into the trap but makes it harder for them to exit. 
Dragging dragging for lobsters is done similarly to dragging for fish, the net is dragged behind the boat along the bottom of the ocean floor and scoops the lobsters into the net.

Other fisheries include:
Herring fishing
Sword fishing
Striper fishing
Tuna fishing
Conch fishing
Scallop fishing


Why buy local seafood?
Buying locally caught seafood is a responsible and sustainable choice. Martha's Vineyard's fish, lobsters, and shellfish are harvested daily by the island's small boat fishery. A small boat fishery offers non-invasive fishing gear types that do not harm the ocean floor or take excessive bycatch (untargeted fish species).
View a list of local fish markets here!
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