As part of their weekly Quest series on the science and environment of Northern California, San Francisco’s KQED public radio took a look at the groundfish catch share management program that will be rolled out on January 1st in the state’s largest commercial fishery.
KQED reporter Lauren Sommer interviewed both commercial fishermen and federal regulatory officials – two groups who are often at odds when it comes to fisheries management. Her reporting revealed significant consensus on likely effects of the new system, which allocates individual fishing quotas – or IFQs – to fishermen who harvest groundfish – any of 90 plus species of rockfish (like chilipepper or yellowtail), flatfish (like dover and petrale sole) and roundfish (like sablefish and lingcod) on the West Coast.
That growing consensus suggests that IFQs on the West Coast will:
- Inspire and increase stewardship of fish stocks, by doing away with a fishery management system that promotes the wasteful shoveling of “bycatch” – fish that current regulations require crews to shovel overboard, usually dead, after it is brought aboard in trawl nets.
- Create full accountability for all fish caught – tallied by federal fisheries observers who will be onboard trawl vessels while they’re at sea.
- Dramatically increase quality of the scientific data provided by fishermen to federal scientists whose job it is to assess fish populations and help set harvest guidelines.
- Provide fishermen with a valuable and marketable asset, in the form of quota shares – a percentage of each year’s total allowable catch.
- Help to replace competition and distrust among industry participants – fishermen, seafood buyers and regulators – with cooperation and communication, hallmarks of catch share fisheries the world over.
Listen to KQED’s story on the West Coast catch share.