National Public Radio's Morning Edition ran a story this morning about the West Coast groundfish catch share that will start January 1, 2011. The story featured fishermen who are preparing for the new program and believe that it will be a big improvement over the old management system. To help fishermen make the transition to catch shares, the West Coast Trawlers' Network, a group of industry leaders from the west coast groundfish trawl fleet, created a new web site filled with information and resources.
Posted in Pacific Also tagged Catch Shares
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.
The West Coast Trawlers' Network, a group of industry leaders from the west coast groundfish trawl fleet, recently created a website full of information and resources focused on helping members of the fleet transition to catch shares. Consisting of the Fishermen's Marketing Association, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, Oregon Trawl Commission, Pacific Whiting Conservation Cooperative, and United Catcher Boats; the network's site includes a string of videos from the recent industry workshop about the transition to catch shares.
Here's one video that provides a brief summary of the topics discussed at the workshop. See the others for further insight into the industry's discussions around reducing bycatch, enforcement, maximizing harvesting opportunities, and securing financing under the new IFQ system to start January 1, 2011.
As catch shares come to the West Coast, many fishermen are relieved that the end of wasted trawl bycatch is finally in sight. Under the existing “trip limit” groundfish management structure, fishermen for years have been required by regulation to shovel uncounted tons of dead fish overboard – a practice they find appalling. John Pennisi, a Monterey fisherman who will operate under the new catch shares policy after January 1st calls the shoveling of fish “immoral,” and reflects on what it was like to fish under a broken regulatory system in the Monterey County Weekly.
Still, opponents have filed a lawsuit to stop the program, and in discussing their lawsuit with the media have repeatedly made unsubstantiated assertions. Brent Paine, a West Coast trawl industry leader, recently pushed back on some of those claims.
On the West Coast, catch share management of the groundfish trawl fishery will take effect on January 1, 2011. The culmination of a seven year process, catch shares represent a major shift in the ways that West Coast trawlers – and other fishery stakeholders – will conduct their business.
Fishermen who will operate under the new system have benefited from hearing from their counterparts in British Columbia, where catch shares were established for the groundfish trawl fishery 13 years ago. Some of the province's leading trawl fishermen shared their perspectives at a recent industry workshop held in Santa Rosa, CA.
This type of information exchange is just one example of how West Coast fishermen are gearing up for the new program. A reporter for the Half Moon Bay Review recently talked with a few of those fishermen, including Steve Fitz.
“Under the new program, there is 100 percent accountability, meaning every pound of catch is accounted for against your quota. This forces people to think of more innovative ways to be intelligent about the way they fish. Environmentally and over the long run, this will be a good program,” says Fitz.
Read the full article in the Half Moon Bay Review.
The regional administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, Will Stelle spoke to west coast groundfish trawl fishermen at a workshop co-sponsored by EDF. Stelle spoke about the transition on January 1st to a new catch share program that aims to stem the decline of this fishery. He acknowledged that fishermen will have to change their business models to succeed but noted that there is significant support for them including federal appropriations and a new fund to support innovation in catch share fisheries.
The workshop brought pacific groundfish trawl fishermen together with catch share fishermen and other experts to share their knowledge and help ease the transition to catch shares. Proceedings of the workshop will soon be available at a new web site – www.westcoasttrawlers.net.
Will Stelle speaks at IFQ Workshop Dinner 09/26/2010 from Environmental Defense Fund on Vimeo.