Tag Archives: catch shares

Fisheries innovations credited with West Coast groundfish recovery

The dramatic recovery of many groundfish species along the West Coast is a testament to the innovation, cooperation and persistence by fisheries managers and fishermen alike under the landmark Magnuson-Stevens Act of 1976.

Pacific whiting, sorted by size
Photo: National Marine Fisheries Service

One of the latest innovations, formally approved last month by the National Marine Fisheries Service, is “electronic monitoring,” which allows the use of video and other equipment in place of the human observers needed to ensure the accuracy of harvest reports.

The faster-then-expected recovery of depleted populations — including canary rockfish, bocaccio, darkblotched rockfish, and Pacific Ocean perch — has led to dramatically increased harvest limits this year. NMFS estimates that increased fishing will add 900 jobs and $60 million in income this year alone. Recreational anglers are expected to go fishing an additional 219,000 times, mostly in California with some of those outings in Oregon and Washington, according to a news release.

Going from a federally declared disaster in 2000 to today’s recovery of most stocks was the result of a monumental change in fisheries management and fishing culture. One of the biggest changes was a shift to “catch shares,” in which each commercial fisherman receives a percentage of the allowable harvest each year, an issue I first wrote about a decade ago (Water Ways, Dec. 11, 2009).

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‘Catch shares’ catching on among fishing groups

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released a national policy supporting the use of “catch shares” — a management approach that numerically divides up the allowable harvest of fish among commercial fishermen.

<em> Catch share quotas have been in place for halibut fishing in Alaska for more than a decade</em><br><small>NOAA photo</small>
Catch share quotas have been in place for halibut fishing in Alaska for more than a decade
NOAA photo

Instead of a race to catch the most fish in the shortest time, operators are allowed to choose when to fish, taking into account safety and market conditions. For harvest managers, the process provides greater control over the total annual catch.

Phil Anderson, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told me his agency is generally supportive of this kind of management. The Pacific Fishery Management Council, which governs fisheries on the West Coast, will launch catch shares in 2011 for groundfish.
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