New management plan continues to yield conservation & economic benefits in Pacific groundfishery: NOAA report

fishery observer

WCGOP Observer
Photo Credit: NOAA Report, supplied by Sean Sullivan

On September 24, NOAA Fisheries released their report on the second year (2012) of the West Coast Groundfish Catch Shares Program, a program that EDF has been instrumental in helping to develop, implement and improve. The report notes the spirit of partnership that helped bring a catch share management system to the Pacific Coast, and praises the program's conservation and economic performance. Mostly, however, NOAA credits fishermen for using the flexibility afforded under catch shares to improve their long-term economic prospects and avoid overfished species.

Here are some highlights:

  • Conservation: The report notes “a significant reduction in the amount of bycatch,” of overfished species, and concludes that the program “is actively rebuilding several groundfish stocks.”
  • Catch: Harvest of target stocks continues to improve—up 5% from 2011.
  • Business Flexibility: Transfers of quota between fishermen increased dramatically in comparison with 2011, and were relatively constant throughout the year. This increase indicates better understanding among fishermen of how to leverage their allotment for efficient business planning.

NOAA’s report also reflects the strong and growing interest among West Coast fishery stakeholders in transitioning from 100% observer coverage on groundfish boats to lower cost alternatives, like cameras, that will still ensure 100% accountability for all catch.

The West Coast catch shares program is still a work in progress, but NOAA’s analysis is very encouraging.

“The report from the second year reinforces what we’re seeing. There are a lot of positive things happening that provide a solid foundation for building on,” said Shems Jud, Deputy Director of EDF’s Pacific Ocean team. “By working with fishermen now to help lower their operating costs and expand fishing opportunity, we think this program can be made durable for the long-term, and eventually turn into a real economic success story.”

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