EDFish

Selected tag(s): Pacific

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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‘Deadliest Catch’ Fisherman Explains How His Job is Less Deadly Thanks to Catch Shares

The Discovery Channel’s The Deadliest Catch portrays just how dangerous commercial fishing can be. However, in today’s Wall Street Journal, Bering Sea fisherman and a cast member of the show, Scott Campbell, Jr., shares how the Alaska crab fishery is now significantly safer following the implementation of catch shares in August 2005. Read the full article here.

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Judge Dismisses Attempt to Halt West Coast Fishery

Earlier this year, EDF joined with two West Coast fishing industry organizations (United Catcher Boats and Midwater Trawlers Cooperative) in an amicus brief requesting dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA). PCFFA had filed suit to halt the West Coast groundfish trawl program.

Late last week, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer ruled in the case, dismissed PCFFA’s claims in their entirety and granted summary judgment to the federal defendants (the Secretary of Commerce, NMFS and NOAA). This is an excellent outcome for a program with real potential to transform a failed fishery into a profitable and sustainable one for years to come.

Please see the news release on the ruling below and download the court’s decision on the West Coast Trawlers’ Network website. Read More »

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National Panel Releases Recommendations on Communities and Catch Share Policy

Community Dimensions of Fisheries Catch Share Programs

Community Dimensions of Fisheries Catch Share Programs

A national panel on “the Community Dimensions of Fisheries Catch Share Programs” released its recommendations today.  The Panel, convened by Ecotrust, found that options for improving communities and fisheries explode under catch shares, but they don’t happen on their own and more work and energy are needed to fully exploit the benefits of catch shares.

Overall, the panel’s findings are good news for communities that have suffered under traditional fisheries management.  Its findings highlight how well-designed catch shares benefit our fishing communities by enhancing economic development.  Under catch shares, there is a menu of options that were never before available to fishing communities.

However, like our brains, we are only using a small percentage of catch shares’ potential.   Fishermen and other stakeholders can and should learn from past experiences to better implement catch shares.  There are myriad ways to design catch shares to maximize benefits for communities.  Where these approaches are being used, such as the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust and a community fishing association in Central California, communities are benefiting.  However, many more communities can benefit from these innovative approaches and in some cases, not all community-focused options have been used in the design of catch share programs.

Fishing communities, fishermen and other stakeholders have opportunities under catch shares that were never available under previous management.  We encourage stakeholders to envision their future and design catch shares to achieve their specific goals.  There are myriad options, including many of the recommendations highlighted in the Panel report and the Catch Share Design Manual.

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