This map broadly characterizes commercial fishing vessel activity in the Northeast based on Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data from 2006 through 2010 (full calendar years). In general, vessels holding permits in certain fisheries are required to use VMS.1 See www.nero.noaa.gov/vms/regs/index.html for additional information, including a link to federal regulations describing requirements for the use of VMS.

This particular map is for vessels using VMS and declared into the NE multispecies fishery plan. The relative amount of vessel activity is indicated qualitatively from high (red) to low (blue). Importantly, this data was intended for fisheries management purposes supporting law enforcement initiatives: NMFS describes VMS as “a satellite surveillance system primarily used to monitor the location and movement of commercial fishing vessels in the U.S.” The map does not distinguish between fishing activity, vessel transit, or other vessel activities. The most accurate interpretation of this map is that it indicates relative levels of vessel presence.

The relatively short timeframe of this map precludes consideration of historic fishing areas. It also does not illustrate more recent or future changes in fishing activity resulting from changing environmental and economic conditions, fisheries management, and other important factors.

Data Considerations

The data provided by NMFS contained the day/month/year, the geographic coordinates of the vessel at the time of transmission, and the vessel’s declaration code, which may signify fishery plan, program within that plan, and associated area identifier or gear-type information. These data then were aggregated by combining all program codes within each fishery plan.

The limitations of the data used to produce these maps should be understood prior to interpretation of this map.

These data are from vessels operating in certain fishery management plans and certain programs within those plans. This map displays data for vessels using VMS with a limited access multispecies permit fishing under a Category A or B Days-at-Sea or catch regulated species or ocean pout while on a sector trip, or those with a limited access NE multispecies small vessel category or Handgear A permit that fish in multiple NE Multispecies Broad Stock Areas (50 CFR 648.10).

It is important to note that these data include all trips using a NE Multispecies VMS code by vessels with these permits, and as such, may include trips that target other fisheries but use a NE Multispecies VMS declaration for another fishery as a management and reporting mechanism. There are many New England fisheries not described through any VMS-derived maps.

VMS data is subject to strict confidentiality restrictions. Therefore, the map shows vessels’ locations following the removal of data that would have indicated individually identifiable vessel positions.


To update these maps with more recent information, the Northeast Ocean Data Working Group is requesting additional data from NMFS for 2011 through 2013.

Support for Regional Ocean Planning

For information about how these data and maps are being developed with stakeholder input and used to support regional ocean planning, please visit the commercial fishing page on the Northeast Regional Planning Body’s website.

1 Fisheries with vessels required to use VMS include: full-time or part-time limited access scallop; limited access monkfish/occasional scallop or combination permit electing to provide VMS notifications; limited access multispecies (groundfish; e.g., cod, flounder species, haddock, pollock, plaice, halibut, redfish, ocean pout, hake) permit when fishing on a category A or B day at sea (DAS); surfclam or ocean quahog open access permit; Maine mahogany quahog limited access permit; limited access monkfish vessel electing to fish in the Offshore Fishery Program; limited access herring permit.