Catch-22

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Fishing OrBiz Fishing 0136 ADOBErgbAboard the nearby Western Breeze, twins Kenny and Randy Ripka say they have seen just two pounds of yelloweye fetch $500. The price demonstrates how the leasing market may squeeze fishermen in the system, some already working on narrow margins.

And the catch share has added costs. Fishermen now pay 1.5% of their revenue to NMFS to administer the catch share, plus 3% toward management and 5% to finance the cost of the 2003 boat buyback. They also pay $230 a day for human observers — most trips take five days — to make each boat accountable, resolving the problem of throwing back the too-small fish. Many of these are new costs. They’re a squeeze on any operation but are particularly hard on the less lucrative operations fishing nonwhiting groundfish.

“I think if shrimp weren’t so good right now, we’d be feeling it,” says Kenny Ripka, explaining the challenges have combined with the rising costs of the catch share to steer the Western Breeze to shrimp and crab instead.

And yet this squeeze works for conservation. Trawl fishermen see their environmental gains and take pride in them — even renters like Lapham, who, in spite of paying out 35% of his revenue to go fishing, has found a stable, profitable place in this industry as it shifts. Yet he knows what it took for him to buy in. And he knows it’s bound to get more expensive as values rise.

Looking at his son, Gangion, leaping after a crewman aboard the Michele Ann, he wonders if the good fortune he has enjoyed will be within reach for those who come next.

“That’s him,” he says. “He might not be a fisherman, I’m not going to try and make him be a fisherman. But like the guys who work for me — they’re all great guys and they are all perfectly capable of running their own vessels, but how can they even begin to try and afford it?”



 

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Guest
+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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Guest
-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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