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Fishing OrBiz Fishing 0350 ADOBErgbEarly signs of consolidation are apparent in Pacific groundfish. Of 118 trawl vessels that were active in 2011, when the catch share began, 105 vessels fished in 2012, a number that’s likely to decline as more quota owners switch from fishing to renting. Today rules make it possible for anyone — even a banker from Kansas City or another large equity fund — to own the Pacific groundfish quota. While it’s impossible to say where the trend will lead, it’s one that causes concern.

What is clear, however, is that the catch share comes with built-in bottlenecks and economic challenges that will make it tough for some fishermen to stay in the industry as it transitions.

Some groundfish boats haven’t fared as well as the whiting operations, which are seeing the value of that product rise, or new entrants like Lapham and Eder, who are augmenting existing, successful portfolios by fishing in the catch share. For those fishing other groundfish like perch or Dover and petrale sole, fishing is now a lot like playing Jenga: One wrong move and the whole enterprise can topple.

There are 206 million pounds of whiting quota, but only 169 million pounds of quota for all other species of groundfish combined. As skipper Wade Hearne tells it, if you catch more than your share, particularly of certain species, it’s game over. That sounds easier to manage than it really is. Hearne’s painting knot dips on the nets aboard the Last Straw while he explains how the boat — his father’s — has a “ton of quota” for the Dover sole it catches. But because the boat drags the bottom, and because the catch share is built to reduce impacts on fish typically hit hard by dragging, quota is in short supply in eight species that might be caught up in the nets. Bocaccio, cowcod, petrale sole, Pacific perch, and yelloweye, widow, canary and darkblotched rockfish are all struggling.

 “The amount of quota is not enough for it to really support the industry where it’s a bycatch,” says Hearne. For this reason, quota of these species rent, not at less than what you could sell a fish at the dock for, but for the kind of costly price people pay for insurance policies. “If you go out to lease it, you’re going to be leasing it for more than what the plant pays for it. You’re buying it not for profit but to keep your risks down and stay within the rules.”



+2 #1 Michael RetherfordGuest 2014-05-03 04:56:06
I am not a supporter of the catch share program. Our fish are a natural resource and should not be owned by any individual. The catch share program is drivin by greed and individuals who would like to see the entire ocean become a national marine sanctuary. It has taken away the opportunity for the next generation of fisherman. Force over capitolization of other west coast fisheries. My vessel used to trawl 2/3 of the year being our primary source of income. Due to and management cost and lack of resource we only participate in catch shares for a month maybe 2 a year. Fish prices go up and down depending on market conditions. I don't believe the catch share program has done anything for the price of are catch. Example crab and shrimp ( not catch share). Market drivin!!!!! The catch shares have only been in effect for the past 3 or 4 years so how can they take credit for healthy and substainable fisheries. I would say that the old management plan, which was more cost effective for bothe the industry and our federal government should get the credit for healthier fish stocks.
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-1 #2 eileenGuest 2014-05-10 19:20:01
What a fine article concerning the groundfish situation in the Pacific Northwest. The writer was insightful and accurately described the complicated situation currently facing the industry. Where we stand now as a result of past efforts of cause and effect and where we may be headed. Thanks for an honest and well researched piece.
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