EDF, processors and fishermen team up to cut outdated regulations while improving sustainability

Photo by John Rae

New analysis of Pacific fishery program shows huge potential for hike in jobs, economic gains

(Portland, Oregon – April 11, 2018) A major West Coast fishery that was declared a federal disaster in 2000 could add new jobs, increase economic activity and cut outdated red tape – all while creating one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world, according to new analysis of the fishery.

These gains are possible through a pilot project in the pacific groundfish fishery, approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which is demonstrating that certain outdated regulations focused on the types of gear fishermen can use in certain areas are no longer necessary. The fishery encompasses more than 90 species of fish including rockfish, Dover sole and lingcod.

“We have worked hard to bring this fishery back sustainably, and this change will help us realize all the benefits of that work,” said Mike Retherford, Jr., a commercial fisherman out of Newport, Oregon fishing in the pilot.

The pilot, formally known as an Exempted Fishing Permit, allows participating fishermen to operate free of these outdated regulations and instead relies on a conservation approach adopted by the fishery in 2011. It focuses on individual accountability using a tool called “catch shares” and full fishery monitoring to create long-term incentives for conservation.

“This is a great example of what can be achieved when stakeholders work together,” said Lori Steele, Executive Director of the West Coast Seafood Processors Association. “We’re only into the first quarter of the year and we have already seen an additional $5 million injected into our fishing communities from this pilot.”

An economic analysis of a select group of fish being caught in this limited pilot shows the potential across the fleet to create more than 400 new jobs and more than $35 million in economic activity per year in West Coast communities. If the entire fishery is able to realize these benefits, the economic reward could equal more than $100 million dollars per year.

“This is a demonstration that commercial gains can go hand-in-hand with environmental performance and accountability.” said Mike Okoniewski, Fisheries Policy and Management Advisor for Pacific Seafood. “We’re proud of the results we’re delivering for customers and the American public who entrust us as stewards of this resource.”

In part thanks to this pilot, West Coast fishermen increased their landing by nearly 20 million pounds in 2017, bringing in enough new sustainable American seafood to feed almost the entire population of California a delicious filet of seafood tonight.

“After the federal disaster declaration in 2000, the fishery was struggling to recover and we all worked together to design a system that could work for conservation and fishing businesses,” said Shems Jud, West Coast director for Environmental Defense Fund’s Oceans program.

Catch shares take the science-based catch limit for the fishery and divide 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.

“Catch shares and accountability are delivering strong conservation benefits and it’s time to get rid of these outdated regulations,” said Jud.

Since 2011 the fishery has reduced discarding, or wasted bycatch, by 80 percent. In 2014 the fishery was certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and received upgraded ratings for several species from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. In addition, six species caught in the fishery that were once declared overfished, have been certified as rebuilt by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Environmental Defense Fund, Pacific Seafood, the West Coast Seafood Processors Association, the Oregon Trawl Commission and many others are asking that the elimination of these outdated regulations be made permanent after this year.

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