In Their Own Words: Sablefish Gear Switching in the West Coast Trawl Program, Part 3
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Susan Chambers – October 25, 2017
Since the inception of the West Coast groundfish trawl catch shares program in 2011, using pots or longlines to catch valuable sablefish using trawl quota has been controversial. Allowing gear switching was a provision of the program from the very beginning.
Seafood News has run the perspectives of three trawl program participants so far this week. On Monday, Seafood News ran some deeper background on the issue and the perspective of Jeff Lackey, a trawl vessel manager from Newport, Ore. Tuesday, we ran the perspectives of Michele Long Eder, also from Newport, whose family members are fixed gear fishermen who have made investments in the trawl program, and Mike Okoniewski, who works for a processor that depends on trawl groundfish.
Today, we run the last piece in this series by Chris Hoeflinger, a fixed gear fisherman from Southern California who has not made investments in the trawl program but has experienced the effects of it.
The trawl sablefish quota is split north and south at 36 degrees north latitude. Using the gear switching provision, some fishermen purchased trawl permits and purchased or leased southern trawl sablefish quota and traveled from the northern area to use fixed gear and catch blackcod in Southern California — sometimes in competition with traditional, non-trawl fixed gear fishermen from that area. An unintended consequence? Is there a solution? It’s just one of the issues surrounding this provision with which the Pacific Fishery Management Council is struggling as it goes through the program’s five-year review.
— Susan Chambers
In his own words: Chris Hoeflinger, fixed gear fisherman from Southern California:
Understanding the flaws of the groundfish trawl catch shares program requires an understanding of the groundfish permits, whether for trawl or fixed gear fishermen.
A West Coast groundfish permit’s value is directly related to the access the permit grants to the fisherman. Gear type endorsement is an important element related to access and value. Allowing one sector new gear rights into a different gear sector’s fishing grounds creates unavoidable negative consequences. This is a fact that NOAA ignored and continues to avoid.
Before the advent of the trawl individual fishing quota (IFQ) gear switching program, access to groundfish was controlled by two primary factors: The amount of groundfish each permit holder was permitted to take during a fishing period, and the type of gear the permit holder was allowed to use to catch the different species in the groundfish complex.
Regarding the fixed gear sector and groundfish permit limits:
b) Traps provide access to some areas where longlines can’t fish. This is one reason why the number of trap endorsements is so few compared to longline endorsements. This is an effort management measure.
c) The fixed gear sector is overcapitalized and managed by restrictive bi-monthly quotas. Fishermen must participate in a year-round fishery in order to attain individual allowable catches.
d) Fixed gear permit holders south of 36 degrees north latitude, cannot consolidate quotas or permits to improve fishing opportunities. If a fisherman owns more than one permit, any additional permits must be finished on a separate fishing vessel. These are effort control measures.
e) Permits were endorsed as either longline fixed gear or trap fixed gear. Endorsement designation cannot be changed — this is another effort control measure.
f) The fixed gear sector worked with management and decided to follow this management approach, with the understanding that no new effort would be permitted to compete directly with a fishery for which they have no history of participation — that is, allowing them to operate with the same gear, on the same grounds and in the same markets. This is an effort control measure. IFQ gear switching violates this management objective and endangers the economic viability of fixed gear permit holders in the traditional fishery.
Regarding the trawl sector and groundfish limits:
b) This ownership right grants the permit holder the ability to catch his or her allocation of groundfish when it is most effective for their individual fishing business model. IFQs have become a tool to high grade sablefish away from its intended use as bycatch in the trawl fishery and into a new fixed gear blackcod fishery.
c) This ownership right allows them to sell, buy or lease more quota. This gives them the ability to become very powerful individual fishing forces in the trawl fishery. Gear-type endorsement separation is the only management measure protecting fixed gear permit holders from this newly created fishing power and competition.
d) As long as trawl fishermen use their designated gear type, trawl fishermen compete with other trawlers. The gear type designation acts as a firewall, protecting the fixed gear sector, which cannot consolidate under IFQ management. In other words, allowing vessels from both systems to operate together using the same strategy is a mistake.
All trawl participants have the same opportunity to structure their fishing businesses according to the design objectives embedded in their IFQ management plan. Fixed gear fishermen do not have this opportunity and must be protected from any adverse consequences caused by this management decision.
e) The trawl sector elected to follow this management approach.
f) This management approach has been very costly. It is debatable whether the cost is worth the benefits. Some trawl fishermen regret this management choice.
With regard to gear designation, the fishery is separated into three primary gear types: trawl, fixed gear traps or pots and fixed gear longlines. A basic understanding of how these three gear types catch blackcod is needed to understand why gear switching is causing a problem to fixed gear permit holders in Southern California.
b) Blackcod is easily damaged in trawl nets and has a very low market value harvested with this gear type.
c) Trawl fisheries are not permitted in many areas where longline and trap directed blackcod fishing has taken place due to bottom contact and bottom topography concerns.
d) Gear switching enables and encourages trawl effort to be relocated from soft bottom habitat into harder bottom areas already fully capitalized by the traditional fixed gear sector in Southern California. This causes unnecessary competition, localized depletion, and increased gear conflict. Longline boats can not compete with heavy trap gear.
e) From my perspective, the true value of the trawl blackcod was intentionally diminished or damaged as a trade-off to provide the public with access to the flatfish resources, such as Dover sole. Species in the deepwater complex, which includes Dover sole, can be harvested only with trawl gear.
f) Blackcod cannot be avoided while trawling for other directed or intended species.
g) Powerful environmental special interest groups are using gear-switching to destroy the economic viability of the trawl fishery, to achieve their conservation objectives.
Understanding these concepts is key to understanding the inequity of allowing trawl effort to enter the fixed gear fishery without any consideration for the disruption it causes.
The trawl sector benefited from wasting the true value of this blackcod bycatch in, order to harvest other, more valuable, directed species. Management fully understood and endorsed this activity.
Allowing trawl sector blackcod bycatch to now enter and compete directly with traditional fixed gear fishermen, on the same grounds and in its associated habitat, without any compensation to, or consideration for, the fixed gear sector is wrong.
Intentionally creating a directed fishery for a species that was originally wasted in order to target more valuable or higher volume trawl opportunities is a perverse management incentive and decision.
The fixed gear sector is the primary directed blackcod fishery. It should not be punished for wasteful practices that occur in the trawl gear sector.
Clearly NOAA Fisheries cannot understand or does not care about the concept of fairness. NOAA managers responsible for promoting gear switching have told me their primary concern is full attainment of the annual catch limits (ACL) for sablefish. If the trawl sector cannot catch their sector allocation of blackcod with trawl gear, then those fish should be reallocated to the fixed gear sector.
Some other important factors that should be considered:
Directed blackcod longline fishermen could benefit from the ability to switch between longline and trap gear. Why does NOAA continue to prohibit this ability to gear switch within the fixed gear sector while they promote it for trawl caught bycatch?
California has a long history of managing fishing effort based in gear types in bottomfish fisheries and the state has said it opposes this gear switching program. Roughly 7 million pounds of trawl quota can potentially be fished with fixed gear in the southern management zone. About 500,000 pounds of gear switched quota below the 36 N. latitude line is the equivalent of adding 18 new boats to the area fished by traditional fixed gear vessels. Already, the Southern California area has the largest rockfish and marine protected area closures under federal jurisdiction; this area cannot withstand more fishing pressure from a fleet fishing trawl quota.
I am hopeful the PFMC cares more about fishery participants and fishing jobs than attainment of bycatch from a trawl fishery and golden parachutes for retiring fishermen.
Professor has a message for Congress: Overfishing is over
E&E Daily by Rob Hotakainen – October 23, 2017
To his detractors, fisheries professor Ray Hilborn is an “overfishing denier,” a scientist who’s all too eager to accept money from industry groups to pay for his pro-fishing research.
Russia to Increase Tax Burden on Domestic Fishing Industry
SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Eugene Gerden – October 23, 2017
Prior to presidential elections in Russia, scheduled for March 2018, and the ever growing budget deficit, the Russian government has decided to significantly increase tax burden on the domestic fishing industry. The government increased the taxes on catch of the majority of fish species by almost 10 percent, according to the press-service of the Russian Presidential Administration.
The increase of tax rates will mainly result in the introduction of amendments to the Russian tax code. According to the code, taxes for the production of fish and seafood in Russia will grow by 10 percent starting on Jan. 1, 2018.
The increases will apply to the majority of fish species produced in Russia, including pollock, herring, salmon, cod, crab and shrimp. Analysts predict the growth of taxes will lead to the increase of prices for fish in Russian retail in the short-term.
According to Herman Zverev, president of the All-Russian Association of Fisheries Enterprises, Entrepreneurs and Exporters, the current share of the tax in the wholesale price for fish in Russia remains relatively small, not exceeding an average of 1.8 percent, while the new tax code amendments will result in the growth of these figures by almost five times.
Herman Zverev said that only in the case of pollock, tax increases will result in the growth of tax burden on the domestic pollock production from the current 824 million rubles (~$14.3 million USD) to 4.7 billion rubles (~$81.8 million USD) per year.
In addition to direct taxes, the Russian government plans to increase the cost of permissions provided to domestic fishermen for the harvest of catch in inland territorial waters.
200 scientists send letter defending fisheries management
The Associated Press – October 24, 2017
More than 200 scientists say Congress should protect federal sustainable fishing laws in advance of a key hearing about the future of the way the government manages fisheries.
Car pollution causing the rapid die-off of coho salmon
The Associated Press – October 20, 2017
Silvery coho salmon are as much a part of Washington state as its flag. The fish has a sacred place in the diets and rituals of the state’s indigenous peoples, beckons to tourists who flock to watch its migration runs, and helps to sustain a multimillion dollar Pacific Northwest fishing industry.
Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meetings
A Notice by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 10/24/2017
The Pacific Council and its advisory entities will meet November 14-20, 2017. The Pacific Council meeting will begin on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST), reconvening at 8 a.m. each day through Monday, November 20, 2017. All meetings are open to the public, except a closed session will be held from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Wednesday, November 15 to address litigation and personnel matters. The Pacific Council will meet as late as necessary each day to complete its scheduled business.
North Pacific Fishery Management Council; Public Meeting
A Notice by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 10/25/2017
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) Groundfish Plan Team will meet November 13 through November 17, 2017.
Fishermen, Researchers Try To Outsmart Bait-Robbing Seabirds To Save Them
KUOW by Tom Banse – October 23, 2017
When commercial fishermen spool out long lines in pursuit of sablefish— better known to consumers as black cod—seabirds looking for an easy meal dive to steal the bait off the series of hooks.
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