Background

The Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation is a result of a unique initiative. The Foundation was started in 2004 by a group of fishermen who wanted to develop a means of support to address issues in the groundfish fishery, including ways to improve gear selectivity and reduce bycatch.  Its mission has since been expanded to include all fisheries important to the commercial fishing industry based in southern New England.

The CFRF is the only fishing industry led research foundation in the New England region. The Foundation’s Board of Directors is comprised solely of commercial fishermen and individuals working in support businesses for the commercial fishing industry.   The heart of the Foundation’s work is focused on establishing working relationships among managers, scientists, and members of the fishing industry through collaborative research projects.

The major objective of the Foundation’s work is to help those engaged in the fisheries management decision-making process to move past contentious debates and towards the process of using timely, relevant research to better inform management decisions.  The ultimate goal is to aid in the development and adoption of practical solutions to common problems affecting important fisheries in southern New England.

The major research priority areas the CFRF currently pursues include the following:

  • Industry-based data collection (biological and oceanographic)
  • Impacts of offshore wind energy development on fisheries resources
  • Market development for underutilized species
  • Incorporating the use of fishery-dependent data for improved stock assessments
  • Bycatch reduction and conservation gear engineering
  • Developing a better understanding of ecosystem dynamics as related to rebuilding stocks important to southern New England, particularly in terms of healthy habitats and changing ecosystem dynamics;
  • Evaluation of socio-economics of the southern New England fishing industry, including the evaluation of cumulative impacts of regulations and options to create new business opportunities and/or enhance existing ones.

The CFRF also responds to research needs and priorities as they arise, and works closely with the other major fisheries research programs in the New England area to coordinate and supplement each other’s work.

CFRF project participants must adhere to safety requirements while conducting research at sea, and reporting requirements designed to aid in the dissemination of pertinent information. Throughout the CFRF’s work, emphasis is placed on conducting research projects that meet the criteria of both scientific rigor as well as high management relevancy.

History

Initial efforts to establish the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation (CFRF) began in 2003 when a group of Rhode Island fishermen, net builders, and gear researchers gathered together to discuss the idea of developing a fishing industry led foundation that would serve to support conservation gear engineering projects. The fishermen involved at the time were based in the groundfish fishery, and were interested in establishing a research foundation that would support scientists and fishermen working together to develop and test new net designs to fish more selectively.

At this same time, those engaged in the groundfish fishery in Rhode Island were eligible for federal financial assistance through a program set up to offset the hardships the industry was facing then. In Rhode Island, the whole pool of eligible candidates for this financial assistance program were surveyed to determine how the assistance funding should be used. The majority of the respondents wanted the funding to go directly to qualifying fishermen. Some in the group, however, decided to take some of their allocation and put it towards starting the CFRF.

Using this seed money, work began in 2004 to establish the CFRF as a non-profit, private foundation. In 2005 the CFRF’s mission was expanded to include other types of fisheries research important to all fishing sectors based in southern New England (shellfish, lobster, finfish, squid, etc.). Today those engaged in the CFRF’s work adhere to the original sentiment held by those who started the foundation – fisheries management should be based on sound information, and fishermen, scientists, and managers should work together to pool their collective knowledge and skills to find solutions and achieve the sustainability of both fishery resources and the livelihoods and economic well-being of the harvesters and coastal communities that depend on those resource.