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Are fishing vessels participating in a different mix of fisheries?

Indicators: Fishery Diversification

Key Findings

Participation in a mix of fisheries is common practice for fishermen. In Oregon’s pink shrimp and Dungeness crab fisheries, the two fisheries for which data are available, the proportional level of effort and landings attributable to groundfish trawl fishermen did not increase in 2011. Consequently, the “spillover” effect on those fisheries during the first year of the Shorebased IFQ Program was minimal.

Interactive Charts


Baseline: Before Catch Share Program

Groundfish trawl fishermen typically participate in a number of other fisheries, depending on the season, fishery conditions, and market opportunities. Over recent years, two of the most important alternative fisheries for groundfish trawl fishermen have been the Dungeness crab and pink shrimp fisheries.

Data on participation by limited entry trawl fishermen in the Dungeness crab and pink shrimp fisheries are currently available only for the Oregon fisheries. The West Coast pink shrimp fishery is centered in the waters off Oregon, which accounts for two-thirds to three-fourths of annual landings in the fishery. Oregon’s coastal waters are also an important source of Dungeness crab, accounting for about one-third of the West Coast annual harvest in recent years. From 2006 through 2008, participation (measured by number of vessels), landings, and revenues in the pink shrimp fishery by limited entry trawl fishermen steadily increased, followed by a drop and subsequent climb. A different pattern of participation was seen in the Dungeness crab fishery, where the number of vessels remained steady for several years despite decreases in landings and revenue. Peak seasons differ between these fisheries, providing opportunity to participate in both. For most areas of the West Coast, the Dungeness crab season starts in December and lasts into summer. The majority of crab is captured in the first two months of the season, however, due to peak holiday demand. Trawling for pink shrimp generally begins in the spring and may continue through the summer.

The variability of diversification patterns makes some groundfish trawlers difficult to characterize. For example, they may primarily fish for groundfish but also target shrimp and crab. Or they may primarily fish for shrimp and crab but also trawl for groundfish. Other important fisheries include the California halibut trawl fishery, troll albacore, and salmon fisheries. Vessels in the shorebased Pacific whiting fishery often participate in Alaska’s pollock fishery as well, moving south from the North Pacific to the West Coast to fish for whiting between pollock seasons. During the year, some crew members and fishing vessels in the non-whiting groundfish trawl fishery may also fish in Alaska for salmon, halibut, sablefish, shellfish, or groundfish.

While groundfish trawl fishermen have historically engaged in a seasonal round of fishing activities, conditions in many local fisheries tend to be inconsistent. For example, Dungeness crab, pink shrimp, and salmon resources are highly cyclical. Pink shrimp landings have been affected by stock abundance, which varies substantially from year to year due largely to environmental factors that cause natural fluctuations in recruitment. Other factors that may explain the low landings in 2006 include a weak market attributed to competition from other warm-water and cold-water shrimp fisheries, competition from aquaculture production of warm-water species worldwide, increased fuel prices, and limited availability of shrimp processors on the West Coast.

Participation in non-groundfish fisheries prior to the Shorebased IFQ program may also have been constrained by bimonthly cumulative trip limits in the non-whiting groundfish fishery (Management Framework). The trip limits required the non-whiting groundfish trawlers to spread their groundfish effort out into six two-month periods over the year. By spreading groundfish fishing effort over the year, the trip limits may have restricted the amount of time fishermen could spend in non-groundfish fisheries.

During Catch Share Program 

One reason for reduced landings of non-whiting groundfish in the early part of 2011 and 2012 was that some groundfish trawl fishermen spent that period participating in the pink shrimp and Dungeness crab fisheries (Financial Viability of the Fishery: Landings). Security of allocations under the catch share program allowed fishermen to engage in other fisheries during the year, without forgoing any of their groundfish landings.

In 2011, total landings for pink shrimp in Oregon totaled more than 48 million pounds. This number was up 53 percent from 2010, and it was more than double the 22 million pounds landed in 2009. Moreover, ex-vessel prices for pink shrimp were high in 2011 due to decreased supplies in Canada for a similar species and strong demand in Europe, Japan and China. However, the number of vessels holding groundfish limited entry trawl permits that participated in Oregon’s pink shrimp fishery decreased from 29 in 2010 to 24 in 2011. Furthermore, although 2011 was an exceptional pink shrimp year, groundfish trawler participants landed the lowest proportion of total shrimp volume since 2007. These data suggest that while groundfish trawl vessels benefited from high shrimp prices and the additional fishing flexibility created by the catch share program, the “spillover” effect of the Shorebased IFQ Program on Oregon’s pink shrimp fishery in 2011 was minimal.

Similarly, no spillover effect was observed in Oregon’s Dungeness crab fishery. The 2010–2011 crab season (December through May) was lucrative because it was a high-volume, high-price season. This pattern was partially driven by growing demand in Asia for live product. However, the number of groundfish trawl participants and their proportion of the total landings were similar to the 2009–2010 season. But in the 2011–2012 season, there was a sharp decline in participation and the proportion of Oregon crab landings harvested by groundfish trawlers. With post-IFQ consolidation and increased gross revenues per vessel that occurred in the non-whiting groundfish fishery (Financial Viability of the Fishery: Revenues), fishermen may be reducing their activities in non-groundfish fisheries.

The Shorebased IFQ Program allows limited entry trawl permit holders to switch from trawl to fixed gears in order to fish their individual quota (Shorebased IFQ Program). This flexibility created an opportunity for another form of fishery diversification that could potentially have negative spillover effects. For example, this gear switching could affect the existing fixed-gear fleet if it leads to overcrowding of fishing grounds where fixed gear is customarily used. On the other hand, any negative effects from additional fixed gear on the grounds may have been offset by the ability of fixed-gear fishermen to increase their fishing opportunities by leasing trawl permits and acquiring quota pounds (QP) for sablefish (Financial Viability of the Fishery: Revenues).

Data Gaps and Limitations

Data on the participation of limited entry trawl vessels in non-groundfish fisheries in Washington and California are currently unavailable. In addition, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has indicated that because of budget constraints it will not analyze the participation of limited entry trawl vessels in the Oregon 2012 pink shrimp fishery and 2012–2013 Dungeness crab fishery. Data on the fishery diversification of vessels that relinquished their limited entry trawl permits after implementation of the Shorebased IFQ Program are unavailable.

Information Sources

California Department of Fish and Game. 2008. Status of the Fisheries Report: An Update through 2006. Sacramento, CA.

Gilden, J. (editor). 1999. Oregon’s Changing Coastal Fishing Communities. Oregon Sea Grant, Oregon State University. Corvallis, OR.

Jenkins, L. and K. Garrison. 2013. Fishing gear substitution to reduce bycatch and habitat impacts: An example of social-ecological research to inform policy. Marine Policy 38(March): 293-303.

Pacific Fishery Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service. 2010. 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.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2012. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Report on the Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program off Oregon. Prepared for Pacific Fishery Management Council. Portland, OR.

The Research Group. 2012. Oregon Commercial Fishing Industry Economic Contributions in 2011 and Outlook for 2012. Prepared for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association. Newport, OR.

Radtke, H. and S. Davis. 2000. Description of the U.S. West Coast Commercial Fishing Fleet and Seafood Processors. Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. Portland, OR.

Updated: February 2015

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