Ralph Brown runs a 75-foot trawler, Little Joe, out of Brookings, Oregon. He fishes for pink shrimp, Dungeness crab, and groundfish, moving between the Oregon and Alaskan coastlines at different times of year. In 2011, the West Coast groundish fishery, which typically accounts for more than half of Brown's gross, converted to a catch shares system of management. As a result, for both Ralph Brown's business and for the groundfish he depends on, things are looking up.
Flexibility Is Up
Before the change, fishing for groundfish on the West Coast took place in two-month bouts. During each mini-season, fishermen would race to catch their limit before time ran out. This led to unsafe conditions on the water and to periodic gluts as boats all brought their catch to market at once.
Today, each fisherman or company is allocated a percentage of the year's total allowable catch for a species. That share of the catchthe catch sharetranslates into the fisherman's individual quota for the year, and they can fish it whenever they like.
"The main thing is, it allows us to plan better," Ralph Brown said. "We're spreading out the supply with the other boats, so the processor gets an even flow, while we can go out shrimping or crabbing in between. Plus we do bigger trips, fewer of them, and more pounds."
Brent Paine, executive director of the United Catcher Boats Association, said his members benefit from the flexibility. "If the fishing's really bad and we're burning up a lot of fuel," he said, "we can hold off for a while until the fishing's better. In the old system, you would fish until your quota was over, no matter what."
The West Coast Groundfish Fishery includes Pacific whiting, Pacific cod, sablefish, and many species of flatfish and rockfish. In 2011, the first year of the catch share program, revenues came in at $54 million, up from a previous-five-year annual average of $38 million.
|Contact: Rich Press|
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service