NMFS releases mid-year catch report for West Coast IFQ groundfish fishery

West Coast Groundfish IFQ Fishery
Mid-year Catch Report (January-June) 2012: Emerging Trends

The full report can be downloaded below. Here is an excerpt from its opening section.

There have been some notable changes in the IFQ fishery, during the first half of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011. Quota pound transfers have increased considerably, there has been more trawling in shallower waters, diversity of catch has increased, and use of fixed gear has increased. Harvests of petrale sole, chilipepper rockfish, and yellowtail rockfish are up, while those of some traditionally dominant species, including sablefish and dover sole, are down somewhat. However, in total, landings, revenues, and effort are similar to last year’s levels.

Several metrics suggest that early in the second year of trawl rationalization, fishers may know better what to expect, and are more extensively utilizing tools of the IFQ system to plan their fishing year. Quota pound (QP) transfer activity has conspicuously increased. The total pounds transferred vessel-to-vessel is up 25%, while the number of those transfers is currently double its level at the same time last year. Average monthly transfer amounts are also much more uniform (less variable) than last year at this time, suggesting better prior information and measured planning on the part of fishers. Dramatic increases in frequencies of trades of bycatch species like canary, widow, and darkblotched rockfish may indicate a drop in saving or stockpiling of QP for these species, and may reflect increased risk pool activity.

Preliminary data indicate that fishers are trawling shallower on average than last year; coastwide average haul depth has decreased for many species. Shallower fishing behavior, and potentially increased encounters with bycatch species suggest higher confidence, perhaps due in part to increased trading of QP, and sufficient assurance that quota pounds of bycatch species are available if needed. It is also important to note that several small changes to the trawl Rockfish Conservation Area have been made since the beginning of the program in 2011, to allow fishing in some previously closed, shallower areas.

The diversity of landings and revenue distributions among species have increased, compared with the same time last year. Relative proportions of total IFQ, groundfish revenue and landings in the non-whiting fleet have increased for some low-percentage species, and a few high-percentage species have somewhat decreased their portion of the total (e.g. dover sole, sablefish). Some previously under-utilized species (e.g. chilipepper rockfish, yellowtail rockfish, and others) are bringing in a larger portion of the total landings and revenue than at the same time last year.

Use of fixed gear is increasing in the IFQ fishery. According to preliminary data, the proportion of IFQ sablefish landed with fixed gear has increased nine percent over the same time last year, and as a result, revenue from fixed gear, IFQ sablefish has increased by 16 percent. These changes in gear use for sablefish translated in small overall changes to the distributions of landings and revenue among gear types for the entire non-whiting fleet.

Aggregate measures of landings, revenue, effort and catch per unit effort are very similar to the same time last year. Retention rates have not changed appreciably, and show only minor, apparently random fluctuations among species.

The purpose of this report is to summarize and illustrate current catch data and trends for the West Coast Groundfish IFQ Fishery in 2012, and compare them to the same period in the 2011 fishery. This is not meant to be an exhaustive report, but to present an early examination of the data, and divide catch estimates among strata which are of interest to many stakeholders.