Recent News

Implementation of the Ocean Salmon Conservation Zone and Reapportionment of Darkblotched Rockfish between Catcher/Processor and Mothership Sectors

West Coast Trawlers' Network received the following announcements on the evening of Friday, November 17th.

Ocean Salmon Conservation Zone

Effective: 0800 (8 a.m.) local time, October 20, 2014

When NMFS projects that the Pacific whiting fishery may take in excess of 11,000 Chinook salmon (known as incidental take) within a calendar year, an Ocean Salmon Conservation Zone closing waters shoreward of approximately 100 fathoms (fm) (183 m) is implemented through automatic action, defined at 50 CFR 660.60(d) subpart C, per §660.131(c).

As of October 17, 2014, the best available information indicates that the Pacific whiting fishery had taken at least 11,000 Chinook salmon. Accordingly, vessels fishing in the Pacific whiting primary seasons for the Shorebased IFQ Program, Mothership (MS) Coop Program, or Catcher/ Processor (C/P) Coop Programs shall not target Pacific whiting with midwater trawl gear in all waters shoreward of a boundary line approximating the 100 fm (183 m) depth contour as of 0800, local time, October 20, 2014.

Coordinates for the 100-fm boundary line are available at §660.73 and can be downloaded from the NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region website at:  www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/management/groundfish_closures/rockfish_areas.html

 

Reapportionment of Darkblotched Rockfish 

Effective: 2000 (8 p.m.) local time, October 17, 2014

The best available information on October 14, 2014 indicated that the 6.3 metric ton (mt) darkblotched rockfish bycatch limit for the Pacific whiting mothership sector (§660, Subpart C, Table 2b) had been reached and exceeded by approximately 0.7 mt. Catch estimates were based on NMFS observer data. The MS Coop fleet has suspended fishing operations after reaching their darkblotched rockfish bycatch quota in accordance with §660.150(c).

Reapportionment of unused portions of non-whiting groundfish species from the catcher/ processor sector to the mothership sector of the Pacific whiting fishery through automatic action are provided for in regulations at 50 CFR 660.160(c) and 660.60(d) when participants in the catcher/processor sector do not intend to harvest the remaining sector allocation. On October 17th, 2014 the Pacific Whiting Conservation Cooperative submitted a cease fishing report to NMFS indicating that 3.0 mt of the catcher/ processor allocation of darkblotched rockfish will not be used and is available to redistribute to the mothership sector. Therefore, NMFS is taking action at this time to reapportion the surplus darkblotched rockfish.

For the reasons stated here and in accordance with the regulations at § 660.60(d) and 660.150(c)(5),  NMFS herein announces that effective 2000 (8 p.m.) local time, October 17, 2014 a surplus of 3.0 mt of darkblotched rockfish is reallocated from the catcher/processor sector to the mothership sector. The revised darkblotched rockfish allocations by sector for 2014 are:

Catcher/Processor       6.0 mt,

Mothership                  9.3 mt, and

Shorebased                  11.1 mt (unchanged from original allocation).

Pacific Council Selects Preferred Alternatives for Trawl Groundfish Electronic Monitoring Program

At the September 2014 Council meeting in Spokane, WA, the Council selected their final preferred alternatives for an electronic monitoring program for the Pacific coast limited entry trawl groundfish fishery catch shares program. See the “Fishery specific tables that show the Council’s final preferred alternatives” (PDF format). More detail regarding the Council’s decision will be provided in the near future on the Council’s website.

The Council also provided guidance to NMFS regarding preservation of the IFQ Program goals and the development performance standards when developing regulations to implement an EM Program. In order to preserve the conservation and accountability aspects of the IFQ Program, the EM Program must accurately capture discard events (i.e., whether discard has occurred), amount of discard (i.e., volume in weight and size of individual fish), disposition of discard (i.e., if we are to consider providing survivability credit for released fish, such as halibut), and do so even for rare events (e.g., catch and discard of rebuilding rockfish, by species).

In developing performance standards and accountability measures, the Council recommends NMFS consider the economic incentives to misreport or underreport catches and mortalities of overfished rockfish and Pacific halibut.

Individual accountability in the fisheries will hold only so far as monitoring programs are able to counteract these incentives. As such, having adequate enforcement to ensure compliance with the EM Program with strong consequences in place for violations are keys to success.

Performance standards examples are listed below:

  1. Require recording of discards in logbooks with estimated weights given for each species for each haul or set;
  2. Require a minimum of 30% video review during times of gear retrieval and 30% of video review of the remainder of the trip; compare to logbook entries for logbook certification;
  3. Logbook certification is achieved if video review determines that logbook amounts are within 20% accuracy of video review, by species;
  4. If logbook amounts do not meet 20% accuracy standard, then a 100% video review is triggered at vessel account holder expense and vessel cannot commence another fishing trip until video has been reviewed and vessel account has been debited;
  5. If the 100% video review is triggered more than twice within a six-month time period, then 100% video review is in effect for all fishing trips for the six months following the commencement of fishing activity, again at the vessel account holder’s expense.

Seafood Watch Up-Listing of Trawl Groundfish Species Generates Widespread Attention to West Coast Fishery

The announcement by Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program that they had raised the rankings for dozens of West Coast trawl species is welcome news that is generating a lot of attention, both domestically and among seafood industry-watchers around the world.

Following the June certification by the Marine Stewardship Council of 13 West Coast species as sustainable, Tuesday's announcement by the Aquarium marks the second major acknowledgement of the remarkable progress made by West Coast trawlers and fishery managers over the last decade.

Congratulations are in order for everyone involved in this unfolding success story!

Here are just a few of the outlets covering the Seafood Watch upgrades:

Seattle Times (front page)

New York Times

Monterey Herald

The Oregonian

EDFish

San Francisco Chronicle

Los Angeles Times

Undercurrent News

Major Announcement: MSC Certifies 13 West Coast Trawl Species as Sustainable.

(Portland, Ore. – June 3, 2014)Citing the transition to catch shares management as a key to rebuilding stocks and reducing bycatch, 13 species caught by the West Coast trawl fishery today earned designation from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as sustainable. The designation opens up new markets for a fishery that spans California, Oregon and Washington, and accounted for more than 40 million pounds in landings in 2013.

The MSC designation comes after years of work to improve the sustainability of the fishery, including the adoption of a catch share program in 2011, after the fishery was declared a federal disaster in 2000. Through the cooperation of fishermen, fishery managers, EDF and others, a catch share program was designed and implemented for the fishery that rebuilds and manages stocks to ensure long-term sustainability.

“The MSC designation is a testimony to the environmental and economic benefits we can achieve by working together to solve major fisheries challenges,” said Shems Jud, deputy regional director for the Pacific region with EDF’s Oceans Program. “It may come as a surprise for some to learn that commercial fishermen and environmentalists work closely together, but we’ve been doing that successfully here for almost 10 years and the result is a win-win for fish and fishermen.”

Catch shares takes the science-based catch limit for the fishery and divides the total sustainable amount of fish that can be caught into individual quotas that each fisherman can catch throughout the year. Once implemented, catch shares ensure fishermen stay within the fishery’s sustainable limit while giving them a direct stake in its success and the flexibility to fish when it make sense for them.

According to Brad Pettinger, director of the Oregon Trawl Commission, the implementation of catch shares in 2011 was a milestone for the fishery.

“The changes made under the catch share program got us over many of the hurdles on our way to gaining MSC certification, which is a game-changer for us,” said Pettinger. “Working with the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service, we have renewed our social contract with America’s seafood consumers by demonstrating conclusively that we can manage and harvest these species in a sustainable fashion.”

The catch share program that includes these newly certified species takes the commitment to sustainability even further with its monitoring program. Federal monitors travel aboard each vessel to verify that the entire catch is accounted for and meets the requirements of the program.

“We want to acknowledge the very difficult adaptations that fishermen have made as they work to rebuild this major American fishery,” said Jud. “Today, rates of bycatch and discards have plummeted, while overfished species are rebuilding more rapidly than initially anticipated. At the same time, fishing businesses are able to fish more efficiently under the new management system.”

The MSC’s exhaustive Final Report & Determination, more than 400 pages in length, enumerates several strengths of the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery, including:

• Analytical stock assessments are carried out for most species, and there is a strong link between assessment results and management actions;
• The management plan establishes individual accountability on the part of fishermen and delivers more complete data for fishery managers;
• Sensitive habitats are protected in areas of “essential fish habitat,” and additional areas deemed off-limits to bottom trawls;
• The management system is transparent and open to the public;
• Management of the fishery is based on the best scientific information; and
• The catch share program provides incentives for sustainable fishing.

“For West Coast consumers, this announcement means that their options for buying local and certifiably sustainable fish have just expanded dramatically,” said Geoff Bettencourt, a commercial fisherman from Half Moon Bay, CA. “And that’s great news for everyone who loves seafood.”

The certification of this fishery includes the first MSC certified rockfish species: Chilipepper rockfish, Longspine Thornyheads, Shortspine Thornyheads, Splitnose Rockfish, Widow Rockfish and Yellowtail Rockfish. It also includes the first MSC certified skate species, Longnose Skates. The remaining certified species include Arrowtooth Flounder, Dover Sole, English Sole, Ling Cod, Petrale, and Sablefish (also known as Black Cod).

# # #

Media wishing more information about this announcement, please contact Shems Jud, sjud@edf.org, (503) 358-7053 or Scott Coughlin, scott@fieldworkcommunications.com, (206) 228-4141.

Seattle meeting of stakeholders looks into electronic monitoring of fishing and catch reporting

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SCOM] - January 16, 2014 - 

About 160 people came together January 8th-9th in Seattle to look into the potential for improved catch monitoring and increased accountability as this period of tight federal budgets – along with the rising costs of human observers – have combined to make electronic reporting (ER) and electronic monitoring (EM) high-priority issues in federal fisheries policy. 

The “National Electronic Monitoring and Reporting Workshop” was supported by a grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), with matching funds provided by EDF.

It was principally organized by Dorothy Lowman, a fisheries consultant and chair of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, who worked with a steering committee of managers, scientists, fishing industry representatives, NOAA officials and conservation interests from around the country.

“We’ve seen many EM pilot projects over the years, and they’re important, but we thought it was time to pull key stakeholder groups together from every region to talk about how we can move as efficiently as possible from feasibility to implementation,” said Lowman.

Sam Rauch, NOAA’s Acting Administrator for Fisheries, set the tone in his opening remarks, saying, “A lot of great work has been done through pilot projects and the policies that have been developed around EM and ER; it is time to put these plans into practice.”

Plenary sessions addressed broad EM issues and key components of successful EM programs that have relevance across all regions, while breakout sessions gave participants a chance to dig deeper on EM goal-setting, costs, logistics, data integration, bycatch, and the particular challenges encountered in recreational, small-boat or multi-species fisheries. 

“EM isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so it was crucial to bring the right mix of stakeholders and decision makers together,” said Sarah McTee, a Fishery Policy Specialist with EDF.  “I sense a more engaged and optimistic attitude after the workshop.  The conversation surrounding EM has shifted, and I predict we will see more proactive approaches to determining how technology can be utilized to meet monitoring needs.“

Recognition of the fact that every fishery brings its own challenges was broadly acknowledged at the workshop, but the more prevalent theme was about getting things done. “Each of our nation’s fisheries is unique in terms of their needs and the timeline to consider EM, but the energy and interest in moving forward is growing quickly,” said Tom Dempsey, Policy Director for the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “This workshop gave a number of us coming from New England as managers, fishermen and scientists a great opportunity to discuss what’s been done so far, and the potential for these solutions in our region.  I think a lot of us left Seattle excited about the work ahead of us.”

Several participants expressed that they would like to see more programs up and running. “My biggest takeaway is that we need to implement less-complex EM programs as soon as possible; get them operating,” said Bob Dooley, a West Coast whiting fisherman and president of United Catcher Boats. “They’ll pave the way for the more complex programs that will take longer to develop. I hope everybody here got that message; I think they did.”

Lowman and her Steering Committee members were busy in the days following the workshop as they announced the launch of a new EM resource-base at www.eminformation.com. The website currently houses workshop-related presentations, background papers and contact information for the workshop’s participants, but the plan is to build it out more in the weeks to come, and provide an information-sharing network for everyone interested in electronic monitoring.  

“I think we all ended up on the same page at the end of the workshop,” said Lowman. “Now the challenge is to maintain momentum.”

Reprinted with permission, Seafood.com

Cost Recovery kicks in on January 10th

NOAA Fisheries has announced the publication of a final rule in the Federal Register that implements cost recovery for the Pacific coast groundfish trawl rationalization program beginning January 10, 2014. NOAA also released a Public Notice that includes further details. Both files are below in PDF.

 

For 2014, the fee percentages by sector are:

  • 3.0 % for the Shorebased Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program,
  • 2.4 % for the MS Coop Program
  • 1.1 % for the Catcher/Processor (C/P) Coop Program

Online Workshop for Fishermen

 

NOAA will hold a cost recovery "How To" Workshop on January 7, 2014, from 9am-Noon Pacific Standard Time. The workshop will be held via GoTo Meeting and will include both a conference call-in line and an online presentation. The presentation will be followed by a question and answer session.

 

Attendance is limited, and will be managed on a "first come, first served" basis. If there is sufficient demand, additional workshops will be scheduled. If you would like to attend the cost recovery workshop, please RSVP to Ariel Jacobs, (206) 526-4491, ariel.jacobs@noaa.gov.


IFQ Control Dates to Stand - District Court Issues Summary Judgment in Pacific Dawn Case

On December 5th, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order granting summary judgment in Pacific Dawn, LLC, et al, Plaintiffs, v. Penny Pritzker, et al., Defendants, and Midwater Trawlers, et al., Intervenor-Defendants.

In this much-watched case, the court granted the defendants' and intervenor-defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment, meaning that the original IFQ allocation for West Coast whiting will stand. Plaintiffs in this case had hoped for changes to the control dates used for establishing whiting IFQ.

Defendants and defendant-intervenors cheered the ruling, which reinforced the ideas that control dates are, 1) critical for preventing further over-capitalization and for protecting the resource, and 2) that the length of time between the control dates and implementation of the catch share program was not excessive, given the complexity of the program and the issues involved.

The decision document is available below in pdf form.

The Take on Hake

Fishermen's News - November 6, 2013

Any sense of dead reckoning indicates the Pacific Coast hake (whiting) fishery is alive and well, thanks to coordinated, collaborative efforts within the industry to avoid by-catch and enhance sustainability.

Those efforts netted the attention of government officials and fishermen in Mexico as they try to decide how best to manage an emerging hake fishery in the Gulf of California.

In 2012, fishermen from Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) asked the folks from the San Francisco-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to work with them to improve management of their growing hake fishery. A series of meetings ensued, with fishery and EDF leaders deciding to take initial steps to establish a catch share system based on the successful system launched in 2011 by the US fishery. Toward that end, more than 20 government officials and fishermen from Mexico converged on Newport, Oregon at the end of July to get the take on hake during a two-day exchange of information and ideas with their US counterparts.

The exchange in Newport focused on the first-hand experiences of the fishermen, managers and others involved in the US hake catch shares system. Dorothy Lowman, vice chair of the PFMC and a fisheries consultant, said EDF considered the exchange “essential” to getting the word out about “the process, benefits and challenges of establishing rights-based management” – something EDF and others earnestly promote.

Complete article, which discusses the nascent Mexican hake fishery, the history of West Coast whiting, and issues related to monitoring.

Costs Endanger structural changes made by the West Coast trawl fleet

Pacific Fishing Magazine, August 2013, by Deeda Schroeder

About two and a half years into the West Coast Trawl Rationalization program, fishermen and their supporters are beginning to feel confident that they understand the program.

That understanding includes the program's benefits and its weaknesses -- and how the program's expenses affect fishermen's bottom line.

The trouble is, those costs have already begun to ramp up. In the next few years, if nothing changes, new expenses are likely to eliminate what for some are already slim profit margins, fishermen and industry supprters said.

At the same time, the program's rules are holding the fleet -- especially the non-whiting boats -- from catching more fish to pay for the higher costs. In 2012, aggregate attainment of all species other than whiting was 29 percent, up 5 percent from 2011, but nowhere near what it could be if some restrcitions were loosened....

Complete article in PDF below!

Interview: Rob Seitz and Shems Jud on West Coast catch shares

In August, Half Moon Bay fisherman Rob Seitz (F/V South Bay) was interviewed on KCBX radio in San Luis Obispo, along with Shems Jud of the Environmental Defense Fund. The interview covered a range of topics about how the catch share program is working so far, as well as the challenges - most of them cost-related - that trawlers still face.

If you'd like to hear the interview, this link will open an MP3 of KCBX's Issues and Ideas program, and after a brief intro the interview leads the show. It runs about 23 minutes in length.

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