Selected tags: Groundfish

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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108 New England Fishermen Stand Up for Sector Management

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 »

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Recent Op-Eds in NE Media Share Successes and Next Steps for Groundfish Sectors

After more than a year under the new groundfish sector management system, stakeholders in New England are examining what progress has been made and what refinements to the system are needed.  Emilie Litsinger, EDF's NE Groundfish Project Manager, recently authored two op-eds that examine why sectors are better than the old system, and how sectors will work even better for fishermen by making some improvements, such as reducing at-sea monitoring costs, setting accumulation limits and allowing for unused quota to carry over into future fishing seasons.

Read Emilie's op-eds:

Reviewing a year of fishing-sector management
The Providence Journal
October 7, 2011

A perfect time to talk about groundfish solutions
New Bedford-Standard Times
September 29, 2011

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Catch Share Conversations: Monitoring Systems Case Studies

Teal basket full of red snapper

Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper

Throughout this week in our Catch Share Conversations series, we have explored the importance of monitoring, and discussed best practices of monitoring systems. Today, we present two case studies—British Columbia Groundfish and Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish– that highlight the diversity of fisheries and accompanying monitoring systems.  These distinctly different examples show how monitoring systems reflect the unique goals and characteristics of a fishery and how two different fisheries design monitoring programs to meet their needs. 

The British Columbia Groundfish fishery is a multispecies fishery with a fleet that employs a wide range of gear types. It employs one of the most sophisticated monitoring systems in the world, including hail in/hail out, 100 percent dockside coverage, 100 percent at-sea monitoring, including observers for trawl vessels, and electronic video monitoring for hook & line and trap vessels.

The Gulf of Mexico Reef fish fishery is a multispecies fishery. The fishery uses logbooks, partial at-sea monitoring, dockside coverage, electronic reporting, VMS and hail in/hail out monitoring techniques to reach program goals. 

Read the complete fact sheets for more details on the British Columbia Groundfish and Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish monitoring systems.

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New England Groundfish Fishermen Should Benefit from Unused Quota

With the support of Senator John Kerry, Congressman Bill Keating, and Congressman Barney Frank, New England groundfish fishermen are asking if they can “carry over” a portion of unused catch for the upcoming fishing year.  EDF thinks this makes sense and will work with NMFS and the New England Fishery Management Council to support putting this into place.

Carry-over is generally allowed under catch share programs for two reasons.  First, catch limits in later years are often set assuming a certain level of catch in earlier years.  If the actual catch is less than the maximum allowed in a given year, that typically will result in a higher level of sustainable yield the following year.  Second, allowing carry-over prevents a rush by fishermen to meet their quota limits at the end of the season.  Such a rush could disrupt all the benefits catch shares can deliver with respect to careful and selective fishing practices that minimize bycatch and habitat impacts, and strategic choices of when and where to fish in response to weather conditions, market demand, and other factors.

Harvested catch in first 94% of 2010 fishing year (all sectors) vs. Allowed catch for entire 2010 fishing year (all sectors)In this first year of the New England groundfish sector program, like the first year of many new management programs, fishermen undoubtedly were cautious as they figured out how best to fish their quota.  It makes sense to let fishermen benefit from the conservative harvest seen in the first year of sectors.

Sector fishermen are already allowed to carryover up to 10% of any unused quota.  It is clear from looking at the amount of unused quota (see chart below) that the catch of many stocks will be more than 10% below the science-based catch limits set to guard against overfishing.  Rather than simply forgo the socio-economic benefits to be gained from at least some of the unused quota, we hope fishery managers can allow fishermen to reap some of the rewards of their conservative fishing this year.

Support seems to be steadily building towards having NMFS and the New England Fishery Management Council take active steps to decide what amount of additional unused quota can safely be carried over for the species that were underfished in 2010.  The appropriate percentage levels should be based on the biology of each species, so that we don’t set the fishery back by jeopardizing rebuilding of overfished stocks and compromising the productivity of rebuilt stocks.  However, it is unlikely that all of the unused quota should be carried over.  After all, natural mortality continues to act upon the stock, and will remove some of the fish that would have been harvested had the full quota been fished.  A scientific analysis can determine how much of the fishing year 2010 quota is likely to still be available to the fleet in fishing year 2011.

Taken together, this measure, as well as the increased ACLs for many groundfish stocks next year and fishermen’s continually improving ability to navigate the sector program, should lead to increased yields and revenues across the fleet, and a more economically and environmentally stable fishery in 2011.

Jake Kritzer is EDF’s Senior Marine Scientist for the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions.  He is also Vice-Chair of the New England Fishery Management Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee, among other advisory appointments.

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