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Have fleetwide catches stayed within quotas?

Indicator: Ratio of Catch to Quota

Key Findings

The average ratio of catch to quota (or catch utilization) across non-whiting groundfish stocks has been declining since 2004 and generally has remained low since implementation of the Shorebased IFQ Program. In contrast, catch utilization in the shorebased whiting sector has been generally high since 2004. Average catch utilization across groundfish stocks in 2014 was close to the levels observed at the start of the project baseline.  For all years since implementation of the Shorebased IFQ Program (2011-2015), catches for all stocks were lower than quota amounts.

Interactive Charts


Baseline: Before Catch Share Program

Baseline Period (2002–2010): During the project baseline from 2004-2010, average catch-to-quota ratios in the groundfish fishery declined from 0.50 in 2004 to 0.36 in 2010. The proportion of stocks with quota underages (where catch was less than 50 percent of quota) has fluctuated between 60 and 73 percent. Average catch-to-quota decreased by 84 percent during the baseline for stocks that are in rebuilding plans. During the project baseline, canary rockfish, darkblotched rockfish, dover sole, pacific ocean perch, pacific whiting, petrale sole, sablefish, and yelloweye rockfish experienced catch overages in at least one year.

Fishers often caught nearly the full Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for commercially valuable species like Dover sole, Pacific whiting, sablefish, shortspine thornyhead, and petrale sole. At the beginning of the baseline period, unproductive stocks such as bocaccio, canary rockfish, and cowcod were also caught at levels near their quota. Catches declined during the project baseline because of the implementation of rebuilding plans for severely overfished species. The proportion of underfished groundfish stocks was 73 percent in 2010. The proportion of rebuilding stocks with catch-to-quota ratios below 0.5 has generally been about 50 percent since 2004.

At least in part, the large quota underages arose because of constraints on fishing caused by other stocks that have extremely low quotas. When one or more species have a very low quota, fishing opportunities are constrained because it is not possible to fish for species with high quota without inadvertently catching species with low quota. Quotas were very low (<20 mt) for cowcod and yelloweye rockfish during the entire baseline period.

During Catch Share Program (2011–2017)

Since implementation of the Shorebased IFQ Program, average catch-to-quota ratios for groundfish stocks and rebuilding stocks have remained at about 0.3, a decline from the period prior to implementation. Average catch-to-quota ratios in the groundfish fishery were lowest in 2011 at 0.27 and highest in 2013 at 0.31. The average ratios for rebuilding species nearly doubled from 0.17 in 2011 to 0.32 in 2015. Average ratios for rebuilding species were also highest in 2015 at 0.32. Pacific whiting catch-to-quota ratios declined 16 percent from 0.99 to 0.83 and had an average ratio of 0.94. Pacific whiting had catch-to-quota values greater than 0.9 in all years of the catch share period except 2015.

The proportion of stocks with low catch-to-quota levels did not change markedly during the catch share period. The proportion of stocks with catch-to-quota values less than 0.5 declined slightly from 89 to 86 percent in the catch share period. Only three stocks—petrale sole, pacific whiting, and northern sablefish—had catch-to-quota ratios that were consistently between 0.5 and 1. In 2011-2015, only petrale sole, Pacific whiting, and northern sablefish were caught close to or at levels slightly in excess of their quota (catch-to-quota near 1). Fishers can target valuable fish (such as Pacific whiting, petrale sole, and sablefish) by adjusting their gear or altering fishing timing. Petrale sole form spawning aggregations in winter, making them easier to select. Pacific whiting are caught with midwater trawls and for the most part do not encounter rebuilding species. Sablefish are now targeted largely with pots, which are more selective than trawls. As a result, fishers are able to avoid rebuilding species and catch quotas for these profitable species. In 2014 and 2015, no stocks had ratios greater than one, indicating that catches were within catch limits for all species.

Data Gaps and Limitations

In the years prior to catch shares, stocks were managed with a variety of target reference points. Management plans reported annual catch limits, optimum yields, and allowable biological catches. Additional details are provided in the Methods.

There were a number of years for which select stocks had no catch-to-quota ratios. Certain stocks, like sablefish and longspine thornyhead for example, had years in which they were managed on a coastwide basis and then managed separately as northern and southern stocks. The cowcod south stock had TACs of zero in the early 2000s, although catches were recorded. Missing values were not filled in.

Information Sources

All catch and TAC (either as Annual Catch Limit, Optimum Yield, or Allowable Biological Catch) data were obtained from reports listed on the NWFSC observer program website:

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