Part 2, Sec. 2C2b
Human Activities
- Commercial Charterboating

b. Sportfishing

Sportfishing is a major commercial activity over Stellwagen Bank and throughout Cape Cod Bay. The activity may be categorized by three types of commercial vessels:

1. Party boats are usually 50 feet or longer and carry 20 to 80 passengers, who pay a set fee for their trip;

2. Charter boats generally measure 25 to 30 feet, and carry an average of 6 paying passengers; and

3. Private rental boats measure 20 feet or longer, and are used by individual anglers and their associates. Commercial sportfishing vessels began working the Stellwagen Bank area by the mid-1970's, although a few party boats had initiated recreational ground fishery operations by the late 1940's (T. Hill, 1990). Previous to the mid-1970's, the recreational fishery was largely based in near-coastal waters, within 3 or 4 miles of shore.

Two factors occurring around 1976, however, dramatically changed the number of recreational vessels operating in the Stellwagen Bank vicinity. The first was the decline in nearshore groundfish stocks, which necessitated vessels moving farther offshore to catch these species. By 1978, a dozen party boats and several charter boats were regularly fishing on Stellwagen Bank (Jarvis, 1990). During prime groundfishing season, it is not unusual today to see 15 to 20 party boats; 25 or 30 charter boats; and up to 200 private rental boats fishing at the Bank (Jarvis, 1990).

The second factor causing large increases in the number of recreational vessels working the Bank was the opening of the market for bluefin tuna in Japan. Before 1976, tuna was not a highly profitable fishery. However, the foreign demand for tuna by the late 1970's resulted in huge increases in prices paid for this species; and equal increases occurred in the number of vessels fishing for tuna on Stellwagen Bank. By 1976, 200 or more vessels were operating on the northwest and southwest corners of the Bank, utilizing a variety of gears (Jarvis, 1990).

Today, targeted sportfishing species, and their seasons include tuna (June to early November); all varieties of ground fish (March through June); and "sport" and bait fish (late May to September) (Jarvis, 1990). Commercial sportfishing vessels operate virtually year-round (except for the period January through February), and are always dependent on weather conditions.

In 1987, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issued 21,475 recreational permits for shellfish; and 12,080 for lobster (Massachusetts Bays Program, 1988). A total of over 4,000 NMFS permits for tuna fishing had been issued by 1989 (Jarvis, 1990).

Although figures are not currently available indicating the economic value of commercial sportfishing operations specific to Stellwagen Bank, the level of fishing effort is indicative that the value of this activity to the regional economy is significant. On a statewide basis, the value of 195,000 charter boat trips in 1987 (out of 90 ports throughout the state), was valued at $9.5 million (Massachusetts Bays Program, 1988). For the same year, 1.6 million private rental boat trips were made throughout the state, valued at $167 million.

Licensing and operation of commercial sportfishing vessels, like commercial fishing vessels, are regulated by existing state and Federal authorities. Current guidelines relating to vessel operation in the vicinity of marine mammals apply to all fishing vessels, in addition to commercial whalewatch vessels and private vessels.

Table 4: Total 1989 Bluefin Tuna Landings from Stellwagen Bank (Indicated by Port) Source: MDMF 1991.


New Bedford 88/ 50,872
Gloucester 668 /283,799
Green Harbor 129/ 71,750
Sandwich 97/ 56,443
Provincetown 31/ 16,671
Newburyport 27 /12,220
Barnstable 17/ 7,016
Sesuit Harbor 8/ 3,257
Scituate 19 /10,554
Beverly 12/ 4,282
Wellfleet 5 /1,983
South Shore 9 /4,219
Boston Harbor 5 /2,210

TOTALS 1,115*/ 525,276

* Of the 1,115 fish landed, 895 were landed by hand-gear; 220 by purse seine nets.

Table 5: Total 1990 Bluefin Tuna Landings from Stellwagen Bank (Indicated by Port)* Source: MDMF 1991.


Gloucester 242 /118,953
Green Harbor 231/ 137,141
Provincetown 38 /23,939
Sandwich 15/ 9,618
Barnstable 9/ 4,458
Sesuit Harbor 7/ 4,072
Newburyport 3 /1,424
Beverly 10/ 3,365
South Shore 13/7,168
Cape Cod Bay 2/ 1,078

TOTALS 570** 311,208

* Preliminary figures.

** Of the 570 fish landed, 551 were landed by hand-gear; 19 by purse seine nets.

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