Number of Active Vessels

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Has the number of active vessels in the fishery changed?

Indicator: Number of Active Vessels

This indicator measures changes in the number of fishing boats that actively participate in the catch share fishery.

Overview

The number of active vessels in the groundfish fishery was in decline before the catch share program began, and the decline continued in the first two years of the program. During the baseline years for which data are available (2006–2010), the number of active vessels in the non-whiting groundfish trawl fishery showed a declining trend, while the size of the shorebased Pacific whiting fleet fluctuated. Following implementation of the Shorebased IFQ Program in 2011, the number of vessels landing non-whiting groundfish dropped by 8 percent, while the number of vessels landing Pacific whiting fell by 19 percent. Some vessel owners likely decided that their quota shares (QS) were insufficient to fish economically, while others appear to have pooled their quota pound (QP) holdings and fished them off fewer vessels.

Baseline Years: Prior to Catch Share Program

During the baseline years for which data are available (2006–2010), the number of active vessels in the non-whiting groundfish trawl fishery showed a declining trend. Factors that affected participation in the fishery during this period included implementation of the limited entry program in 1993; a voluntary, partially federally subsidized vessel and permit buyback program in 2003 (which removed 91 groundfish limited-entry trawl permits or about 35 percent of existing trawl permits); and efforts to rebuild overfished stocks, including large area closures and lower catch limits (History of the Fishery and Management Framework). In addition, rising costs, such as dramatic increases in marine fuel prices since 1999, may have reduced vessel profits and caused a decrease in participation.

The shorebased Pacific whiting fleet expanded rapidly in the 1990s. During the 2002­–2010 baseline period, the number of active vessels ranged from a low of 26 in 2004 to a high of 39 in 2007. While fleet size fluctuated from year to year, the general increasing trend in vessel numbers may have reflected a race-for-fish strategy in use at the time. This strategy involved each company deploying all of its vessels at once in order to catch as many fish, as rapidly as possible (Management Framework).

Catch Share Program

After implementation of the Shorebased IFQ Program in 2011, there was a reduction in the sizes of both the non-whiting and Pacific whiting components of the shorebased groundfish trawl fleet. Between 2006 and 2010, the average annual rate of decrease in the number of trawl vessels landing non-whiting groundfish was about 3 percent; in 2011, the number of vessels dropped by approximately 8 percent. The number of vessels landing Pacific whiting fell to 29 in 2011, the lowest number since 2004. In 2012, the number of trawl vessels landing non-whiting groundfish continued to drop, although the percentage decline was much less than in 2011. The number of active shorebased Pacific whiting vessels in 2012 was unavailable.

This fleet consolidation happened for a number of reasons. In some cases, a non-whiting groundfish trawler’s QS was likely insufficient to fish economically. These fishermen may have sold their groundfish QP to other vessel owners and then entered different fisheries or left their boats inactive at the dock. In addition, cooperation appears to be occurring within the shorebased Pacific whiting fleet, where vessel owners are consolidating their QP holdings among fewer active vessels in order to reduce costs and increase profitability. These actions resulted in consolidation of the groundfish trawl fleet and concentration of fishing activity among a smaller group of individuals, corporations, or other entities. Further changes are likely after 2014, when fishermen will be allowed to transfer QS, subject to accumulation limits and approval by NMFS (Shorebased IFQ Program).

Data Gaps and Limitations

Reliable data on the number of active non-whiting groundfish trawl vessels prior to 2006 are not readily available through public reports. In addition, data for the number of active vessels by vessel size category are currently unavailable for the baseline years and the catch share program period.

Information Sources

Pacific Fishery Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service. 2010. Proposed Harvest Specifications and Management Measures for the 2013–2014 Pacific Coast Fishery Management Plan and Amendment 21-2 to Pacific Coast Fishery Management Plan Final Environmental Impact Statement. Portland, OR.

Pacific Fishery Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service. 2012. Rationalization of the Pacific Coast Groundfish Limited Entry Trawl Fishery; Final Environmental Impact Statement Including Regulatory Impact Review and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis. Portland, OR.

Pacific Fishery Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service. 2012. Reconsideration of Initial Catch Share Allocations in the Mothership and Shoreside Pacific Whiting Fisheries: Preliminary Draft Environmental Assessment and Magnuson-Stevens Act Analysis. Portland, OR. Available online: www.pcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/WhtgReallocEA_Draft-Rough_Oct_20_2012.pdf.

Matson, S. 2012. West Coast Groundfish IFQ Fishery Catch Summary for 2011: First Look. National Marine Fisheries Service, Northwest Regional Office. Seattle, WA.

Matson, S. 2013. Annual Catch Report for the Pacific Coast Groundfish, Shorebased IFQ Program in 2012. National Marine Fisheries Service, Northwest Regional Office. Seattle, WA.

National Marine Fisheries Service. 2012.The West Coast groundfish IFQ fishery: Results from the First Year of Catch Shares. Northwest Regional Office. Seattle, WA.

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Number of Active Vessels (pdf) – February 2015 (minor editorial revisions)

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Number of Active Vessels (pdf) – September 2013 (initial release)

Updated: February 2, 2015