Did economic and social effects on local communities change?

Indicators: Seafood Dealers and Processors

Key Findings

  • During the baseline period there was a general decline in the number of both non-whiting groundfish and shorebased whiting buyers along the coast during the baseline period, with the greatest decline from 2006-2010.
  • During the first five years of the Shorebased IFQ Program the number of non-whiting groundfish and shorebased whiting buyers substantially declined. Coos Bay, Fort Bragg, San Francisco, and Monterey show the greatest decreases in non-whiting groundfish buyers. Morro Bay showed a substantial increase in buyers due to an increase in the number of vessels landing sablefish in the port.
  • With the consolidation that occurred in the shorebased Pacific whiting fleet following catch share program implementation and shift of the Pacific whiting fishery away from northern California, purchases of Pacific whiting ended in Crescent City and Eureka. As a result of the decrease in the rate of non-whiting groundfish deliveries, processors have had to cut their fillet workforce.

Interactive Chart Story

Metrics

This indicator shows changes in the number of shoreside entities purchasing and processing groundfish.

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.

“Just like my fish plant used to have, I would say 15 to 20 filleters. They’re down to five now because there’s lack of fish coming in. And the same thing with [support businesses]. Everybody that I deal with has seen a horrible cut. [A specific company] is where I bought all my wire and everything for my boat, all that kind of stuff. And they said they’re doing one-fifth of what they used to do. I just bought $10,000 worth of wire from them a couple of days ago. That was a couple of thousand fathoms of wire. And that’s the first order they’d had in about a year. They used to wire up boats, a couple a month when everyone was active and going. When you lose boats, the accounts are going away. We have seen little businesses go away in Charleston, I’m sure as a direct result of no money in the fishing industry.”
~ Fishermen

“Well, we had visions of starting markets for Dover on the East Coast using fresh trucks. Get a team driver, and get it there in two to three days. We talked to groups back there that were willing to take a look at it.  We talked to a couple fishermen, and when it came time, they didn’t go fishing for Dover.”
~ Processor

“Black cod prices have gone up and down, but they’re [generally] higher. Petrale’s stable or higher. Our rockfish that we’re delivering has gone up higher. So all of it has definitely increased. And most of that is becasue there’s a lot of markets shoreside. I can go from port to port. I can go from fish plant to fish plant any time in the season I want. I can deliver to who I want. There’s competition, and as long as there’s competition, you’re going to get the price available for the fish.”
~ Fishermen

“The larger processors see where under the right conditions, people can benefit from the ITQ program. They may not like the ITQ program, but they see under the right conditions where people can benefit from it. But it will require some changes in the program itself, which the council has been reluctant to make. On the accumulation limits, for example. There’s got to be some switching around, some loosening up of the limits, if for no other reason than to make boats more efficient so that they would be willing to provide fresh groundfish during the course of the year. There needs to be some willingness on the part of the boats to enter into cooperative agreements with processors. Under antitrust law, there is a limit to what the processors can do under a cooperative. But if the fishermen agree among themselves that they will all sell to X plant or X company, whatever, and the company agrees separately that yes, we will pay premium price during this time of year for this groundfish as long as it’s delivered in this fashion and so forth, yeah, there’s opportunities out there. So you sort of achieve the benefits of vertical integration without having vertical integration. But it requires true cooperation on the part of both the fisherman and the processor. And that is one of the downsides of having an independent fleet, is that everybody’s independent.”
~ Processor

“We’ve seen quite a few changes. The one that comes to mind first off is vessel behavior. We were told that the IFQ fishery would lead to more opportunity for vessels to develop landing patterns to support the market, and in fact, it’s turned out 180 degrees opposite of that. Since they control the quota over the whole year and can fish at any time they want, they tend to pick the best opportunity in front of them at the time. Now we go through these intense periods of gluts and starvation. In a market that has a lot of substitute competition, notably from imports, it is very difficult to maintain your market base. And that has been a major factor in what I feel is a deterioration in our ability to market this fish.”
~ Processor

“Shrimp was just so good for the last three years. They made so much money. So I had more shrimpers than draggers. And I can’t blame them, and that’s okay. But this has been going on for quite a few years, and we get a lot less fish. Truthfully, I make money selling round fish. Filleting doesn’t make money; it’s very expensive. We’ll make money with whole round petrale or rex or something that can go to people [who] like to hand-cut their own in restaurants.”
~ Processor

“I got 180 people that work here. We’ll have more at crab season, but we have a core for our shrimp and our crab and all that stuff. Our core for our fillet worked well because the filleters would become crab pickers, and we’d pay by the pound. They’d make good money. I’d take that fillet crew and those two months that we didn’t do fish, do crab. Worked perfect. But now I don’t do fish. Now I got crab season coming, so now what do I do? Now I got to teach a whole bunch more people how to pick a crab.”
~ Processor

“So guys would, in the middle of shrimp season, they’d go shrimping, and then they’d come back and put on their groundfish gear, go out and catch a bunch of groundfish, and then return to shrimping again and do the same thing the next two-month period. So at least it kept groundfish coming into the dock on a regular basis throughout the year. And that enabled the processor to employ the skilled labor, the filleters. And it kept a lot of fresh groundfish in the market as well. Now with a bunch of groundfish coming in in March/April and another bunch coming in in October/November, there’s [nothing for] the filleters to do in the intervening months so the number of filleters the plant hires has gone down considerably. And the fish itself, because it’s coming in in rather large bunches at either end of the stream winds up going into the freezer because you can’t put that much fish out into the marketplace all at once and expect any decent return. And you’re still losing money somewhat on frozen fish, but it’s not as bad as everything going into the market at once.”
~ Processor

“The prior program worked better for us where you had a certain amount of fish every two months that those guys could go catch. They wanted to catch it because if they didn’t, they couldn’t keep it, couldn’t roll it over. And so that seemed to work pretty good because we could schedule our boats, and we knew what they could have, and we knew we’d have that amount of fish to sell, so you could budget yourself to take care of something like that. But nowadays, it’s hit and miss.”
~ Processor

“We’ve seen less fish come into the plants. We’ve seen deliveries become more sporadic. There are fewer boats obviously. And as a result, it’s reduced employment in the processing sector. And there’s more product now going into the freezer, which commands a lower price than fresh groundfish.”
~ Fishermen

Analysis

Baseline: Before Catch Share Program

There was a general decline in the number of both non-whiting groundfish and shorebased whiting buyers along the coast during the baseline period, with the greatest decline from 2006-2010. The decrease in the number of buyers was the result of the consolidation that started within the processing sector in the late 1990’s following an earlier expansion. Landings began to be hauled from buying stations to general processing plants at a few locations. A number of factors led to the centralization of processing plants, including the expense for equipment and refrigeration to meet new quality standards and the development in certain ports of the infrastructure (utilities, docks and unloading facilities, cold storage, navigation channels, and ground and air transportation) required for processing.

By the late 2000’s, Coos Bay had the highest number of processors of non-whiting groundfish (6 processors), while Astoria has the second-highest (5). These major regional processing centers processed a high volume of locally-landed fish and also imported a high volume from buyers in other ports. Only seven ports processed more than one percent of coastwide landings of non-whiting groundfish, and the largest processing center, Astoria, accounted for around 36 percent of processing activity by weight of landed fish. The other major processing locations were Newport (15 percent), Eureka (15 percent), Bellingham (12 percent), Coos Bay (9 percent), Fort Bragg (7 percent), and Watsonville (2 percent). Pacific whiting was processed in plants in Westport, Astoria, Newport, Coos Bay, Ilwaco, San Francisco, and Watsonville.

During Catch Share Program

Since the Shorebased IFQ Program began the number of both non-whiting groundfish and shorebased whiting buyers has substantially declined. During the first five years of the program compared to the preceding five years, Coos Bay, Fort Bragg, San Francisco, and Monterey show the greatest decreases in non-whiting groundfish buyers. Morro Bay showed a substantial increase in buyers due to an increase in the number of vessels landing sablefish in the port. Many of these boats were participants in the limited entry fixed gear sablefish fishery leased limited entry trawl permits after the catch share program began in order to acquire quota for IFQ sablefish (Financial Viability of the Fishery: Revenues).

While the annual landings of non-whiting groundfish have been relatively stable since catch share program implementation, the number of groundfish fishing trips and number of days an individual processor receives deliveries have generally decreased (Financial Viability of the Fishery: Revenues). This decrease in the rate of non-whiting groundfish deliveries has generally occurred across all ports. Due to extended lapses of non-whiting groundfish deliveries some processors have had to cut their fillet workforce.

With the consolidation that occurred in the shorebased Pacific whiting fleet following catch share program implementation (Number of Active Vessels) and shift of the Pacific whiting fishery away from northern California (Landings and Revenues by State and Port Group), purchases from Pacific whiting trips ended in Crescent City and Eureka.

Information Sources

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

Updated: May 2018

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