On August 9th, NOAA Fisheries adopted a catch-share program for West Coast trawl fishing that for the first time will make a major shift in how groundfish are managed, one that can benefit both fish and fishermen and lead to economic efficiencies that are difficult to obtain under traditional management schemes.
The new approach does away with the conventional practice of setting a fleet-wide quota of how many fish can be caught and then letting fishermen compete with each other to catch as much of that quota as possible before the fishery is closed. Instead, the new system divides the total quota into shares controlled by individual fishermen. Those shares can be caught whenever the fisherman wants, ideally more efficiently and at more profitable marketing times.
The new system has the support of the trawl fishing industry and was developed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which works with the fisheries agency in producing fishery management plans for the West Coast.
NOAA says that because the new management system is so new and complex, it’s being implemented in steps, through separate rules. The latest proposed rule, published yesterday for public comment, describes further important details of the catch-shares plan, including how data on bycatch will be collected, how observer coverage is to be managed, and how certain vessels can become eligible to take part in cooperative programs.
The public comment period ends Sept. 30. The proposed rule, including how and where comments can be submitted, can be found at http://www.regulations.gov.