Fishing vessels in the Boston Harbor. Photo credit: MIT Sea Grant
MIT Sea Grant developed a systematic approach to analyzing public comments on fishing regulations that helps managers inform their decision-making. Herring is a species critical to commercial lobstermen and recreational fishermen as bait, in addition to being an important food source for tuna, humpback whales, sea birds, groundfish, and striped bass. Despite the long standing requirement that social impact assessments (SIAs) be done for any proposed changes in fisheries management, fisheries managers often find it difficult to incorporate meaningful social impact assessments in the development of fisheries regulations.
MIT Sea Grant worked closely with regional Fisheries Council staff to prepare SIAs for several amendments to the regulations involving herring. MIT Sea Grant developed software that identified themes in public comments and helped quantify their importance among stakeholders to consider the social impacts, along with biological concerns, to improve the fisheries management decision-making process.