Monkfish have traditionally been fished almost exclusively as a by-catch of scallop and groundfish ventures and have never been on quota management. Since 1990, however, the commercial importance of this species has grown dramatically due to new markets and high prices. Landings in 4X rose from 200t in 1989 to over 1100t in 1994. The mobile gear fleet was subsequently restricted to a 20% by-catch until the results of a 5 year joint science/industry study to assess the abundance of monkfish in 4X and its potential as a developing fishery could be evaluated. Summer RV results from both 4X and 4VW indicate declining abundance levels in the 1970s and 1980s, but an increasing trend in the 1990s with the best signs of recruitment in 4X. Survey length frequencies over the long term show a gradual decline in size range particularly in commercial size fish. There is insufficient information at this time to determine appropriate harvesting levels, but the impact of an essentially unregulated American monkfish fishery along with large monkfish bycatches from the scallop fishery and a possible resurgence of traditional groundfish stocks, indicate a need for a cautionary approach.
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