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Massachusetts Commercial Fishing

Updated on October 11, 2014

Commercial Fishing in Massachusetts, USA

Massachusetts is famous for its commercial fishing and seafood processing industries. Important commercial fisheries for the state include groundfishing, scalloping, lobstering and clamming.

new bedford ma
new bedford ma

New Bedford Massachusetts

New Bedford is consistently ranked as a top American port in terms of product value. The city's top ranking is due mainly to to the sea scallop fishery.

Gloucester Massachusetts

The port of Gloucester was founded in 1623. Known as America's oldest commercial fishing port, Gloucester still exists as a full service port for the New England commercial fishing industry. The port is home to scallop boats, lobster boats, groundfish trawlers, mid-water herring trawlers, gillnetters and other commercial boats. In 2006 Gloucester was named a Preserve America Community.

Massachusetts Seafood

Atlantic Cod

Atlantic cod are caught along the Northeast coast of North American and on both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean. Cod are cool water fish. They have a delicious mild white flesh and are well suited for a variety of cooking methods. Cod are highly prized by both recreational anglers and by the New England groundfishing fleet.

Atlantic Haddock

Atlantic Haddock is known for its excellent table quality. The fish has fine white flesh and can be cooked in the same ways as cod. Haddock is a good source of low-fat protein and is high in magnesium and selenium. Small haddock and cod fillets are often sold as scrod in New England The term refers to the size of the fish which have a variety of sizes, i.e. scrod, markets, and cows.

Atlantic Pollock

Atlantic Pollock is a member of the cod family. It is distinguished from other cods by its coloring. The Atlantic pollock is olive green above, with yellowish gray side and a silver belly. Its lateral line is white, and it has a small barbel on its chin. Pollock average 4-15 pounds but sometimes reach weights up to 40 pounds. Pollock are most common in cooler waters from Newfoundland south to the Mid-Atlantic states. Pollock are sometimes called blue cod, Boston bluefish, saithe, and coalfish. Most pollock are trawl-caught and are typically available year-round.

Summer Flounder

Summer flounder are an important fish of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Coast. Summer flounder begin life as free swimming fish. During growth, the "bottom" eye migrates to the upward-facing side of its body, allowing the flounder to lie on one side where it can ambush its prey. Flounder feed on a variety of small fish and crustaceans.

Winter Flounder

Winter flounder are an important commercial and recreational fish throughout New England. These small flounder are highly prized by seafood enthusiasts and one of the few fish that are caught near shore in winter. Several factors have contributed to serious declines of winter flounder populations. Current stocks are well below historical numbers.

Yellowtail Flounder

Yellowtail flounder reach maximum sizes of roughly 22 inches total length and 2.2 pounds in weight. They are found along the Atlantic coast of North America from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Labrador, and Newfoundland to the Chesapeake Bay. Yellowtail flounder prefer sandy bottoms in waters between 130 and 230 feet.


Monkfish are also known as goosefish or angler fish. These strange fish live along the ocean floor, eating almost anything that comes near. They are equipped with a "lure" which is a stalk above their head which they skillfully use to attract prey close enough to swallow. Monkfish are caught by trawls, gillnets and hook and line.

Black Sea Bass

Black sea bass are found from Cape Cod to Cape Canaveral, inhabiting irregular hard-bottom areas, such as wrecks or reefs. Sea bass are highly sought after by fishermen as they are excellent table fare. The meat is firm, white and delicious and is suitable for frying, grilling, baking or broiling.

Scup (Porgy)

Scup or porgy range from the Mid Atlantic Bight from Cape Cod, MA to Cape Hatteras, NC. Adult scup feed in schools of similar-sized individuals around piers, rocks, offshore ledges, jetties, and mussel beds. They move inshore in summer but return to deeper waters offshore or migrate southward when temperatures cool. Large scup generally occur farther offshore than do smaller, younger ones. Scup populations on the East Coast have historically gone thru periodic cycles of abundance.

Atlantic Herring

Atlantic herring can be found in both the eastern and western halves of the North Atlantic Ocean. In the western Atlantic, herring range from Labrador to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Herring grow to about 14 inches, weighing less than a pound. Herring landed in the USA are marketed as canned sardines, steaks and kippers. Some U.S.-caught herring is sold to foreign ships that process the fish as frozen or salted products. In addition to being an important food fish, they are harvested as lobster, blue crabs or tuna bait.

Spiny Dogfish

Dogfish are small sharks. They are plentiful, with schools sometimes being enormous. These fish are popular in several types of cuisines. The meat of dogfish is boneless, white and firm. Spiny dogfish management is controversial as scientists, fishermen and environmentalists disagree on population sizes. A popular source describes the fish as "Voracious almost beyond belief, the dogfish entirely deserves its bad reputation. Not only does it harry and drive off mackerel, herring, and even fish as large as cod and haddock, but it destroys vast numbers of them...........fishermen have described packs of dogs dashing among schools of mackerel, and even attacking them within the seines, biting through the net, and releasing such of the catch as escapes them..." (Fishes of the Gulf of Maine, Bigelow, H.B. and W.C. Schroeder, 1953)


Hagfish, also known as slime eels are eel-like fish equipped with as a tongue having two pairs of rasps. Hagfish use their mouth to snag and then tear the flesh from the carcasses of their victims as they devour their prey from the inside out. They have very slow metabolisms and after eating they may not need to feed again for several months. They lack jaws, true eyes or a stomach. Hagfish live on areas of muddy sea bottom. The fish overwhelms any prospective predators by exuding massive amounts of sticky slime. Despite these disgusting character traits, the skin of these creatures is often used to make expensive boots, bags, wallets and purses.

Catch Share Poll

In 2010, Massachusetts was hard hit by the implementation of catch shares by NOAA. Much of the groundfishing fleet sat idle as boats lacked enough quota to fish profitably. Meanwhile bitter political battles were waged, with the City of New Bedford and several Massachusetts organizations filing lawsuits.

Are you for or against NOAA's

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