MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK

Prior to implementation of the West Coast Shorebased Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) managed the groundfish trawl fishery through a number of measures, including harvest guidelines, bimonthly cumulative trip limits, area restrictions, seasonal closures and gear restrictions. Many of these management measures were designed to keep the fishery within the catch limits for a number of species declared overfished under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).

For example, to protect certain species and species groups, trawling was restricted in several areas, notably the Cowcod Conservation Area (southern California, implemented in 2001), Yelloweye Rockfish Conservation Area (northern Washington, 2002) and Rockfish Conservation Areas (coastwide, 2003). These depth-based area closures were designed to exclude fishing effort from those depth zones particularly inhabited by overfished species. In effect, the conservation areas closed most of the shelf region to bottom trawling for groundfish, forcing fishermen to concentrate on either shallow-water flatfish species (e.g., rex sole and English sole) or deep-water species (primarily Dover sole, shortspine thornyhead, longspine thornyhead and sablefish). Beginning in 2007, the structure of the Rockfish Conservation Areas became highly complex, due to efforts to allow as much access to target species as possible, while avoiding discrete areas with high bycatch rates of overfished species.

MSA requirements to rebuild stocks of overfished species also led to major reductions in trip limits. For instance, trip limits for canary rockfish declined 20-fold, from 2,700 kg per month in 1995 to 45–270 kg per two months in 2000. The reductions applied not only to overfished species, but also to co-occurring target species, so that fishermen would have less incentive to continue fishing after reaching the trip limits for overfished species. In short, the groundfish trawl fishery was largely managed based on constraints imposed by a few species, even if those species were not targeted by any fishermen.

In the Pacific whiting fishery the competition between the shorebased and at-sea sectors escalated into a race for fish and a political battle for allocation and rights of access. In 1996, the PFMC implemented an allocation scheme that created four distinct sectors: tribal, catcher/processors, motherships and shorebased. After providing the tribal allocation, the remaining portion of the Pacific whiting total allowable catch (TAC) was allocated to the other three sectors: 42 percent to the shorebased sector; 24 percent to motherships; and 34 percent to catcher/processors. While the allocation eliminated the race for fish among sectors, the race for fish within sectors continued. In 1997, the companies operating catcher/processors formed a cooperative that allowed members to voluntarily divide the sector’s allocation among themselves. However, the shorebased and mothership sectors of the fishery had many more vessels, which made it more difficult to form cooperatives to coordinate the harvest of their allocations. The race for fish within these sectors intensified in 2009 when the PFMC established sector-specific bycatch limits for certain overfished rockfish species. If a sector’s bycatch limit was reached or projected to be reached, all vessels in the sector were required to stop fishing, regardless of whether the sector’s Pacific whiting allocation had been achieved.

The shorebased groundfish trawl fleet first suggested some type of IFQ program in the 1990s, but it was deterred by the moratorium on new IFQ programs included in the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996. In 2001, Amendment 14 to the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) implemented a permit stacking program for the limited entry, fixed-gear sablefish fishery. This program mimicked some of the benefits of an IFQ program by allowing eligible permit owners to stack up to three permits on a single vessel in order to access the sablefish trip limits associated with each of those permits. Following the expiration of the moratorium in 2002, fleet representatives again raised the suggestion of a formal IFQ program.

In response, the PFMC established a Trawl Individual Quota Committee in 2003, which was charged with assisting the Council in identifying the elements of a trawl individual quota program and scoping alternatives and potential impacts of those alternatives. Over the next several years, the Shorebased IFQ Program was implemented through two amendments to the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan. Amendment 20, which was approved in June 2010, established the Shorebased IFQ Program for the shorebased trawl fleet (including whiting and non-whiting sectors) and cooperative programs for the at-sea (whiting only) mothership and catcher/processor trawl fleets.

Amendment 21 to the FMP established fixed allocations for limited entry trawl participants (October 2010), and the final rule (December 2010) added program details, including program components applicable to gear switching, observer programs, retention requirements, equipment requirements, catch monitors, catch weighing requirements, first receiver site licenses, quota share accounts, vessel accounts, further tracking and monitoring components, and economic data collection requirements. The Shorebased IFQ Program went into effect in January 2011.

Since the Shorebased IFQ Program was implemented, the Pacific Fishery Management Council has been addressing a docket of so-called “trailing amendments,” or additional items needed to modify and adapt the program to concerns that arose in the deliberation and development phases but were not addressed in Amendments 20 and 21. The PFMC has adopted a cost recovery structure, remedied issues that arose in a court challenge, made recommendations of a possible reallocation of whiting quota shares and catch history assignments, and approved a number of clarifying actions for implementation.

The NMFS Northwest Fisheries Science Center has begun assembling baseline socioeconomic studies that will be updated every two years up to 2015. The industry is actively engaging in workshops, information sessions, and online communications to apprise its members of requirements, data, quota banking and trades, and other key information. Because of the mandatory economic data collection provisions of the program, key elements for evaluation will be collected from the outset. A website that shows current balances for quota share and vessel account by species is now available.

A complete history of PFMC discussions and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) documents related to the Shorebased IFQ Program is available on the PFMC website.

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