Author Archives: Shems Jud

NOAA Cites West Coast Trawl Fishery Improvements

Winona J Docked in Newport, Oregon

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest regional administrator William Stelle had an op-ed in the Portland Oregonian on Saturday that discussed progress in the West Coast groundfish catch share program during its first year of implementation.

The op-ed, Managing the Pacific fishery: Catch share system recasts commercial fishing, discusses how the fishery was managed and carried out prior to 2011. “Fishermen would fish hard, regardless of weather or market conditions, resulting in safety issues and a boom-and-bust supply of fish,” Stelle wrote. “The result: shorter seasons, potentially unsafe conditions, high levels of bycatch and sharply limited marketing opportunities, which depressed prices, profits and wages.”

Under the new program, landings stayed strong; revenues shot up to $54 million for the fleet in 2011, versus an annual average of $38 million over the previous five years; and discards in the non-whiting groundfish fleet plummeted from 17% in 2010 to less than 5% in 2011.

To read the full op-ed click here. 

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NOAA Releases Report on First Year of West Coast Groundfish IFQ Program

Catch Monitor Ian Cole (left) inspecting catch as it is offloaded. Photo courtesy Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today released a report on the results from the first year of catch shares in the West Coast Groundfish Trawl Fishery. With the positive and transformational changes the fishery has seen, EDF is proud to have worked closely with fishermen and fishery managers to see the IFQ program developed and put into place.

The 2011 report’s findings were remarkable, citing dramatic reductions in bycatch and discards after catch shares implementation. Before catch shares, the non-whiting fleet had a discard rate which ranged between 20-25% and in 2011 after implementation discards plunged to 4.8%.

Improved conservation also means better outcomes for fishermen. According to the report, retention rates were significantly higher in 2011 than 2010 which means fishermen were able to keep more fish and profit from their sale. “I had some big reservations about the catch share program prior to implementation,” said Rex Leach, a fisherman and member of the Oregon Trawl Commission. “However, after the first year, I’m happy to say I was wrong. Now my discards are almost non-existent and I can plan my groundfish landings when it’s convenient to my operation.”

Groundfish trawl fishermen deserve positive recognition for their efforts to make the new system work. Still, a suite of costs associated with the program – along with the fleet’s debt from a 2003 vessel and permit buyback – warrant swift action.  Specifically, fishermen are required to pay an increasing share of the cost of onboard observers, ultimately paying 100% of those costs by 2015. They are also required to pay up to 3 percent of ex-vessel revenues as required under the Magnuson-Stevens Act to pay for the catch share program’s administration and operation.  At the same time, the overhanging buyback debt absorbs 5% of their ex-vessel revenue. Together, these costs amount to between 10 and 20% of a fisherman’s gross income – a burden that could undermine all of the investment and benefits from this new program.

EDF has been working with fishermen, with Council staff and with leaders at NOAA Fisheries to find solutions that will reduce costs for the trawl fleet while maintaining critical program components like 100% accountability.  Finding those solutions will be essential to achieving the long-sought stability and profitability of the fleet, and for helping fishermen and processors continue to provide healthy, delicious, sustainable seafood.

To read the full report, click here.

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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.” Read More »

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Oregon Trawl Commission Director Reflects on Anniversary of Pacific Groundfish Catch Share

EDF has been working for years – and continues to do so – with a wide range of industry stakeholders to develop and implement a successful catch share program in the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery. As of January 11th, West Coast trawlers have been operating under their new system for one full year, and early assessments are starting to come in. In a recent op-ed in the Portland Oregonian, the director of the Oregon Trawl Commission provided his impressions of the program.

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Powerful Changes Underway in the Pacific Groundfish Fishery

On November 28th, the New York Times published an article about some of the powerful  changes underway in the Pacific groundfish fishery.

With the first year of that fishery's new catch share program coming to a close in January, early results are impressive: wasted bycatch has dropped from approximately 20 percent of overall catch to an astonishing one percent, and fishermen are fundamentally changing how, when and where they fish.

The West Coast catch share program holds fishermen individually accountable to an annual quota for each species and requires them to stop fishing when they reach their limits. This new accountability is driving an innovation boom in the fishery. Fishermen are developing entirely new approaches to avoiding over-fished species, while catching their more plentiful target stocks.

One example of such innovation is the "risk pool" approach mentioned in the New York Times article, which was developed on the West Coast by fishermen working closely with the Environmental Defense Fund and The Nature Conservancy. In risk pool arrangements a group of fishermen agree to put their over-fished species quota into a common pool based on an understanding that they will have access to the quota pool to cover any unexpected catch of those species. To ensure the group stays within its overall allotment, participating fishermen establish where, when and how they will fish in order to avoid over-fished stocks. This kind of cooperation is almost unheard of in non-catch share fisheries where competition – not communication – is the rule. Read More »

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West Coast Fishermen Adapt to Catch Shares and End Wasteful "Regulatory Discards"

Almost one year ago, the West Coast's largest commercial fishery by volume transitioned to a catch share management system. The new system:

  • Enables fishermen operating in the multispecies groundfish trawl sector to fish when they want, rather than forcing them into a series of two-month "use it or lose it" fishing time-frames;
  • Enables them to lease or trade quota for specific species and adapt their fishing practices to both market and weather conditions; and
  • Ends the universally-despised "regulatory discards," which, under the previous management system, compelled fishermen to throw uncounted tons of perfectly good fish overboard, dead. Read More »

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