One Year In: Catch Share System Shows Significant Promise For Improving the West Coast Groundfish Fishery

A year ago this week, West Coast trawlers who fish for over 90 species of groundfish – including cod, sole and rockfish – started operating under a catch share management system. The shift for the $40 million-a-year fishery has been called the biggest change in commercial fishing regulations on the West Coast in 50 years.

So far, results have been impressive, particularly a near end to wasteful, so -called “regulatory discards” – fish that traditional regulations required fishermen to toss overboard, often dead.

Fisherman Geoff Bettencourt from Half Moon Bay, California reflected in an opinion piece in the San Jose Mercury News:  “Under the old system, fishermen had little or no incentive to avoid overfished species or to behave like the natural conservationists that we are… As someone who remembers 2000, when the West Coast groundfish fishery was formally declared a disaster, I'm feeling better than I have in a long time about its future.”

The Seattle Times editorial board also took a careful look at the year-old program, and today wrote: “The new system appears to be a success.”

In addition, The Daily Astorian editorial board wrote: “Aside from slashing the amount of waste, there is evidence the new way is raising per-pound prices paid to fishermen, increasing cooperation and spurring ‘cleaner and greener’ gear innovations.”

There still are some challenges ahead for fishermen, but the new catch share program is a huge improvement over the dysfunctional regulations of the past.

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