Steve Fitz on his boat, FV Mr Morgan. Photo Credit: David Hills
The California Fisheries Fund closed a new loan last month that will help a family fishing business pass the torch to the next generation.
Steve Fitz, captain of the F/V Mr. Morgan, will continue his family tradition operating the only commercial fishing operation in the United States that uses Scottish Seine gear, a selective and eco-friendly way to catch groundfish. Steve’s loan from the CFF helped him buy the Mr. Morgan from his uncle and start up Mr. Morgan Fisheries, a fishing business based in Half Moon Bay, specializing in sustainably harvested groundfish and Dungeness crab.
Mr. Morgan Fisheries is known for its sand dabs, Petrale sole and chilipepper rockfish—all species sustainably-managed under a catch share program. Like all other participants in this catch share program, the Mr. Morgan receives an individual fishing quota for several groundfish species that may be harvested throughout the year, with requirements for full accountability of every pound of fish harvested, and a human observer on every fishing trip. These new fishing practices guarantee there is no overfishing and Steve can use that message to market his fish with the 100% Federal At-Sea Monitoring No Overfishing Guaranteed label.
Steve Fitz grew up fishing with his father in New England before moving west and graduating from University of Denver with a degree in business. About eighteen years ago, he moved out to Half Moon Bay, California, to fish with his uncle, eventually becoming the captain of the F/V Mr. Morgan in 2000. Read More
The November issue of Fishermen’s News includes in-depth look at the transformation of fishing for almost 100 species along the West Coast since catch shares were introduced last year.
The West Coast Groundfish Catch Share Program was first proposed by fishermen who realized that their fishery was on an unsustainable course. Design and development of the program took about seven years, and required a collaborative approach among diverse stakeholders: small-boat fishermen, large “mothership” trawlers, environmental groups, state officials, regional Council members and NOAA officials, just to name a few.
From the article by reporter Terry Dillman:
“Coos Bay-based trawler Rex Leach said he had ‘some pretty big reservations’ about catch shares, but after the first year, he’s ‘happy to say I was wrong.’ Discards are nearly non-existent and he can now plan groundfish landings when it’s convenient for his operation.”
All fishing communities have one thing in common: they depend on healthy, productive fish stocks. Catch share management programs benefit fishing communities by helping to stabilize fisheries. Fishing is inherently unpredictable, because it depends so much on ever-changing conditions in the oceans. Since well-designed catch share systems give fishermen more flexibility to time their fishing activities, they are significantly better than traditional management methods at helping fishermen cope with negative fluctuations in barometric readings or in dock prices paid for the fish they deliver.
Well-designed catch share systems also include tools and mechanisms that benefit communities, things you won’t find under traditional management.
Over the years, thousands of fishing jobs have been lost due to declining fishing opportunities. Under conventional management, fishermen face ever-increasing limits on harvest levels, and shorter and shorter fishing seasons. When fishing is allowed, conventional management often forces fishermen into a dangerous and inefficient race for fish.
One example; in the days before catch shares, the West Coast trawl fishery was on a downward economic spiral. Processing plants were shuttered, infrastructure was lost, and ports became shadows of their former selves. It was death by a thousand cuts – with extended fishery closures, a federal disaster declaration, dwindling trip limits, and ever-decreasing annual catch limits, fishermen were leaving the industry and the coastal communities that relied on groundfish landings were spiraling downward. Under status quo management in place at the time, a handful of major players bought up permits and consolidated ownership. This meant even fewer owner-operators on the water. Read More
I recently co-authored an op-ed in the Bangor Daily Times entitled “’Disaster’ Funds Must be Used to Improve Groundfishing in the Long Term,” in which we discussed the importance of thinking about both the short and long term challenges facing the New England groundfishery. The Obama Administration recently declared the fishery a federal disaster.
The deep decline in the numbers of cod and other groundfish in New England waters has created this critical need to help local fishermen and fishing communities. But any support to the fishing industry needs to be more than a simple transfer of money. We need to ensure that there are fish for the fishermen to catch in years to come.
By making smart investments now, we can do more than help fishermen through this crisis. We can take care of fundamental needs to provide assurance against potential future disasters. The op-ed outlines several steps that can be taken to ensure that these ‘disaster’ funds are utilized for the long term health and survival of NE fishermen, coastal communities and the fish that sustain them.
Read my full op-ed in the Bangor Daily Times or in the New Bedford Standard Times.
Winona J Docked in Newport, Oregon
"This is a really big deal," said Will Stelle in a Sunday Seattle Times story which highlights the benefits of the groundfish catch share program on the West Coast. "It is restructuring the architecture of the fishery, building in very real and powerful incentives to do the right thing," said the Northwest regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service. The article cites several benefits that West Coast fishermen are seeing, including dramatic reduction of regulatory discards, fishing gear innovations and improved revenues. To read the full article, click here.
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
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.
Marking a major shift in the public debate over the groundfish fishery in New England, 108 fishermen from the five coastal New England states — representing all sizes of operations and 178 boats — have submitted a letter to their Members of Congress saying that a vocal minority in the industry has for too long dominated the debate over Sector management. This letter says that, in fact, there are many fishermen that want their members of Congress to support stability, profitability and flexibility for their fishery, rather than a return to the “chaos” of the previous management approach.
“A few voices calling for the overturn of the entire Sector system have been amplified in the media, and we understand that our elected officials are trying to respond to their constituents’ concerns,” the groups wrote in a letter addressed to “New England’s Senators and Congressmen.”
“Unfortunately,” the letter states, this has led to a series of increasingly dangerous proposals that truly put the future of our businesses and fisheries at risk. Perhaps too many of us in the active industry have been too busy making the new system work to consistently weigh in. This letter is our attempt to rectify that situation.”
The letter was signed by 108 fishermen affiliated with the Associated Fisheries of Maine; Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association; Midcoast Fishermen’s Association; Northeast Seafood Coalition; and Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association. Read More