TRADITIONAL NEW England groundfish like cod, pollock, and flounder could get a new lease on life as the region’s fishermen switch to an innovative way of divvying up the catch on Saturday. While the majority of boat captains have signed on to new communal cooperatives, each with its own catch quota, the switch away from the fishing-derby practices of the past has been deeply controversial. Any delay in implementing the new system, however, would be a mistake: The best way to get the kinks out of the catch-share sectors, as the cooperatives are called, is to start the season and deal with problems as they arise.
From Rhode Island to Maine, fishermen have formed into 17 sectors, most based on geography, with each sector allocated a portion of the region’s quota for the groundfish species. Similar cooperatives have proven successful among Cape Cod hook fishermen and in Alaska as a way to head off overfishing.
Nonetheless, Mayor Scott Lang of New Bedford has called for a temporary delay. Among several concerns, he has said he believes the allotments for certain species “appear extremely conservative.’’ If that proves to be the case, though, allotments can change. For some time, catch-share sectors will be a work in progress — but progress toward a healthy stock of fish and fishing industry.