Did economic and social effects on local communities change?

Indicators: Crew Employment and Compensation

Key Findings

  • The total number of crew positions on non-whiting groundfish and Pacific whiting vessels declined after implementation of the Shorebased IFQ Program as the number of active vessels decreased. The average crew per vessel increased slightly during the first five years of the catch share program.
  • For non-whiting groundfish vessels, average crew compensation per day increased by about 61 percent from the pre-catch share program to the catch share program period. Although average days at sea in the catch share fishery fell by 27 percent, the increase in daily compensation made up for the loss of days.
  • Average crew compensation per day for shorebased Pacific whiting vessels increased by about 114 percent from the pre-catch share program to the catch share program period, although compensation fell substantially in 2015 due to a decrease in revenues. Average days at sea in for shorebased Pacific whiting vessels increased due, in part, to higher annual catch limits (ACLs) and fewer vessels fishing.

Interactive Chart Story

Metrics

This indicator measures the number of crew positions and the dollar amount of crew earnings.

In Their Own Words

Although some of the quantitative data analyzed for this indicator exhibited clear trends, it was challenging to discuss the relationships between observed data trends and implementation of the respective catch share programs, especially in the Northeast. The Measuring the Effects of Catch Shares project team believed that those stakeholders most involved in the fishery, either as active participants or as representatives of an involved coalition of participants (e.g., sector managers in the Northeast), would be able to provide insight and help to explain trends seen in the existing quantitative data. The following quotes were selected to illustrate some of those perspectives and highlight trends such as effects on small vessels, the effect of avoiding “choke stocks,” fleet diversification, and product quality. The individual quotes do not represent findings or conclusions for this indicator, nor do they represent a consensus across any category of participants.

“You’ve seen guys like myself that had three boats that qualify, but I only fish [in the IFQ fishery] with two boats. But it’s not like I have one boat doing nothing. It’s fishing in [other fisheries] year-round. When I think of consolidation, I think a lack of jobs, lack of accessibility for crews, people making less money, that kind of stuff. I’ve been able to streamline the business a little bit to where two boats are fishing whiting here and one boat’s [pursuing other fisheries], so actually I’ve got more crew because we’re fishing more. I’ve added people and they rotate a month on and a month off on two boats. And on the other boat, they go two months on and a month off.”
~ Fishermen

“The number of crew per vessel hasn’t changed, but they’re having to work harder to make the same amount of money that they used to make because there’s very few boats that have quota, groundfish quota, that would allow them to fish year-round like they used to. So they have to go out and lease fish. When they owner has got 20% or 25% of the value of that fish in lease fees, he’s got to take it off the crew.”
~ Fishermen

“It’s hard to find good crew. I hear that all the time. Last year there was a crew member who wanted to become a captain, and vessels were almost fighting over him to get him, like fighting over a condo in San Francisco, because he’s a really good crew member and would make an excellent captain.”
~ Fishermen

“My crew has stuck with me. They make decent money every year. I think most of the crews up and down the coast, I mean it’s hard to speak for them, but you always see the same people on the back decks of these boats, the crews. They love fishing, so they’ll bounce from boat to boat trying to find somewhere that makes them happy and so they can fish as much as they want. Some of them make less money, but they’re still all here. They haven’t ran away. I don’t think it’s affected the crew as much as it’s affected the business owners. Some of the boats went away, but the good guys that run those boats have all found another job on a good boat. For the most part, I think the good crewmen are still here. I mean the guys that were really into it are still here.”
~ Fishermen

“If you’re the guy that sold out and was ready to retire, it was a good deal. If you’re the guy that was on the deck, who was working as a deckhand that was making $40,000 a year that lost his job, it was a screw job.”
~ Fishermen

Analysis

Baseline: Before Catch Share Program

As the number of active non-whiting groundfish vessels decreased during the baseline years (Vessel Activity by State and Port Group), the total number of crew positions decreased.

Most crew are paid a “crew share,” or a percentage of the total revenue earned by the vessel after certain expenses are deducted. During the baseline years, revenues generated by non-whiting groundfish vessels were generally stable (Financial Viability of the Fishery: Revenues), and crew wages and employment followed suit. As the number of active non-whiting groundfish vessels decreased, the total number of crew positions decreased from 279 in 2009 to 258 in 2010.

Crew wages on shorebased whiting vessels showed an increasing trend in the early baseline years, but they fell in the late 2000s when stock assessments showed a decreasing abundance and allocations were reduced (Financial Viability of the Fishery: Landings).

During Catch Share Program

The number of active non-whiting groundfish vessels continued to decline after implementation of the Shorebased IFQ Program (Vessel Activity by State and Port Group), resulting in a further decrease in the total number of crew positions. The average crew per vessel increased slightly during the first five years of the catch share program.

For non-whiting groundfish vessels, average crew compensation per day increased by about 61 percent from the pre-catch share to the catch share period. Although average days at sea in the catch share fishery fell by 27 percent due to various factors (Financial Viability of the Fishery: Landings), the increase in daily compensation made up for the loss of days, with compensation per year (estimated by multiplying average days fished per vessel by average crew compensation per day) increasing by about 17 percent from the pre-catch share program to the catch share program period.

The total number of crew positions on shorebased Pacific whiting vessels decreased substantially with the sharp drop in the number of vessels participating in the shorebased Pacific whiting fishery following catch share program implementation (Vessel Activity by State and Port Group). The average crew per vessel increased slightly during the first five years of the catch share program.

Average crew compensation per day for shorebased Pacific whiting vessels increased by about 114 percent from the pre-catch share program to the catch share program period, although compensation fell substantially in 2015 due to a decrease in revenues (Financial Viability of the Fishery: Revenues). Average days at sea in for shorebased Pacific whiting vessels increased due, in part, to higher ACLs (Annual Catch Limits) and fewer vessels fishing (Number of Active Vessels).

Information Sources

National Marine Fisheries Service. 2017a. West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program Five-year Review – Draft. Pacific Fishery Management Council. Portland, OR.

National Marine Fisheries Service. 2017b. FISHeries Economics Explorer (FISHEyE). Available online: https://dataexplorer.northwestscience.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheye/.

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.

Updated: May 2018

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