It’s all too rare these days that we see Congress working the way it’s supposed to, so when positive, bipartisan legislation to assist our industry clears both the House and Senate, it’s worth celebrating.
Capping a multi-year process, the Revitalizing the Economy of Fisheries in the Pacific Act passed in the U.S. Senate on November 12th, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The “REFI Pacific Act,” as it came to be called, directly assists West Coast trawlers by reducing the interest rate on the fleet’s 2003 permit/vessel buyback loan from 6.97% to the Treasury rate. Additional relief will result from extending the buyback loan payment period to 45 years.
All told, estimated savings to the fleet will amount to $1M per year; possibly more. That won’t move every groundfish trawl operation into the black by any means, but it’s real money at a time when many trawlers – especially among the small boat fleet – are struggling to make a profit.
Credit is due to Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Senator Maria Cantwell for sponsoring the legislation. Representatives Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) were also strong champions.
The logic behind the REFI Pacific Act reflects common sense. Just as homeowners refinance their mortgages during periods of low interest rates, recipients of government loans aimed at strengthening U.S. fisheries should be able to do the same. In this case the outcome was even better than we initially hoped, as the interest rate was reduced to match the Treasury rate. The U.S. government should not be in the business of making loans that yield a profit to the lender as recompense for taking a risk. Even if they were, there is actually no risk connected to these loans, because payments are deducted as a flat percentage of catch value when fish are delivered to the dock until the loan is paid in full.
Congressional staffers Jordan Evich (Herrera Beutler) and Nicole Teutschel (Cantwell) were remarkably helpful in this process, meeting with West Coast fishermen’s organizations many times, listening carefully to our concerns and working patiently to move the process towards a successful, bipartisan conclusion.
West Coast industry groups who actively supported this legislation include the Fort Bragg Groundfish Association, Half Moon Bay Groundfish Marketing Association, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, Coos Bay Trawlers Association, Oregon Trawl Commission, Fishermen’s Marketing Association and United Catcher Boats. On the NGO side, Environmental Defense Fund consistently supports cost-reduction for fishermen, and helped to channel industry concerns to Congressional offices during their National Outreach Days, held in February.
Bipartisan legislation passed with broad-based support from industry and environmentalists. Let’s hope we see more of it in the New Year!
Brent Paine is Executive Director of United Catcher Boats, which represents 69 fishing vessels operating in Alaska and on the West Coast. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This definitely falls under the category of "You Don't See This Every Day;" West Coast fishermen featured in a TV commercial during the World Series. We thought it was worth sharing.
During the Series, Whole Foods Market started a multimillion dollar ad campaign that features Kevin Dunn and his Astoria-based Iron Lady. Building on recent announcements from the Marine Stewardship Council and the Seafood Watch program, the campaign is all about sustainable food sourcing, and describes Kevin's catch as "independently rated for sustainability; traceable from dock to store."
The 30-second spot can be seen here.
In tandem with that ad, Whole Foods released another three-minute video on YouTube that features Kevin and his crew, along with Andrew Bornstein of Bornstein Seafoods. Here's that one.
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).
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:
- Require recording of discards in logbooks with estimated weights given for each species for each haul or set;
- 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;
- Logbook certification is achieved if video review determines that logbook amounts are within 20% accuracy of video review, by species;
- 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;
- 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:
(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).
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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
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, email@example.com.
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.
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.