Did economic and social effects on local communities change?

Indicators: Vessel Activity by State and Port Group

Key Findings

  • During the baseline period, the non-whiting groundfish vessel activity in some ports and port groups declined due to the vessel and permit buyback program, management measures that restricted landings, and consolidation of West Coast processing groups.
  • The number of shorebased Pacific whiting boats making landings in California expanded during the baseline years, but the boats remained largely concentrated in Oregon.
  • After implementation of the Shorebased IFQ program, Morro Bay and Monterey, California experienced an increase in the number of non-whiting groundfish vessels making landings due primarily to participation by vessels with limited entry trawl permits using fixed gear to target IFQ sablefish. Other California ports and all ports in Oregon showed declines in vessel activity for a number of reasons, including a decision by some fishermen to sell their non-whiting groundfish QP to other vessel owners.
  • The number of non-whiting groundfish vessels making landings in south-central Washington increased after program implementation, but no boats made non-whiting groundfish landings in north Washington coast ports.  
  • With the consolidation that occurred in the shorebased Pacific whiting fleet following catch share program implementation, together with the shift of the Pacific whiting fishery away from northern California, virtually all vessels stopped delivering Pacific whiting to Crescent City and Eureka. The number of shorebased Pacific whiting boats making landings in Astoria and Newport, Oregon increased slightly, while vessel activity in Washington ports declined.

Interactive Chart Story

Metrics

This indicator measures changes in vessel activity, which can affect economic and social conditions in communities.

Port groups represent combinations of individual communities based on geographic proximity.

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

“If the boats leave, the grocery store isn’t selling stuff, and the guy at the gear store isn’t selling stuff. Like when it first happened, at [a specific business], they were like wow, we’re used to having guys coming in buying $10,000 worth of wire, $20,000 worth of this gear, that gear. Well, they changed. They went to doing more sports equipment. They’re doing fine. But like he says, man, we’re doing ten times the work as when we had one guy come in and buying $10,000 worth of stuff. They still sell stuff, but they’re not selling the volume because there just isn’t the boats.”
~ Fishermen

“With all the rationalized programs in place, it has made shipyards so much in demand that you have a hard even getting in. Everybody says all the boats are going to go away, we’re going to consolidate, we’re all going to be out of business, but that hasn’t happened. All the shipyards are so booked up. The net shops are the same way. They’re not going under. They’re all healthy. And so I think these IFQ programs has definitely shored up and helped the support service in a big way.”
~ Fishermen

“The only boats that exist are the big boats with big volumes. All the little boats are gone. There was a whole fleet of boats that were between 55 and 70 ft. Every one of them is gone except for one.”
~ Fishermen

“All I see us doing in Coos Bay is losing boats really. Newport has probably stayed about the same. And I can’t speak to Washington or California. People are just getting out because the money is not there anymore.”
~ Fishermen

Analysis

Baseline: Before Catch Share Program

For the coast as a whole, the number of trawl vessels landing non-whiting groundfish showed an overall downward trend during the baseline years (2002-2010) due to the vessel and permit buyback program that occurred in 2003, together with management measures that restricted landings in order to reduce the harvest of groundfish species declared overfished (Number of Active Vessels). In addition, the relative importance of individual ports and port groups in the groundfish trawl fishery was affected by the consolidation of West Coast processing groups that followed an earlier expansion in the processing industry (Seafood Dealers and Processors). Vessel activity shifted toward those ports, such as Astoria and Newport, with expanding processing plants and highly-developed shoreside support services.

As a result of the above factors, varied patterns in vessel activity emerged across states during the baseline period. The decline in the number of active non-whiting groundfish vessels was especially steep in California ports, including Crescent City, Eureka, Fort Bragg, Bodega Bay, San Francisco, Monterey and Morro Bay. In some ports the reduction in fleet size was especially dramatic; for example, of the 17 resident groundfish trawlers in Crescent City, 16 participated in the buyback and were removed from the local fleet.

As a result of the decrease in the size of California’s non-whiting groundfish fleet, the concentration of active vessels shifted from that state to Oregon, although Oregon also experienced a decline in vessel activity during the baseline period. In particular, the proportion of the non-whiting groundfish fleet that landed their catches at Astoria, Newport and Coos Bay increased. The number of vessels in making non-whiting groundfish landings in Washington also declined over the baseline period, and throughout the period, Washington consistently had less non-whiting groundfish vessel participation than California or Oregon.

The number of shorebased Pacific whiting boats making landings in California expanded during the baseline period, with Eureka and Crescent City experiencing large increases in vessel activity. None of the vessels that delivered Pacific whiting at Eureka and Crescent City were home-ported in either community, and the Pacific whiting stock has a limited window of availability off the northern California coast due to its northward migration in late spring (Landings and Revenues by State and Port Group). Nonetheless, the vessels supported buyers and other shoreside businesses during an otherwise slow period at the ports.

Despite the increase in the number of vessels landing Pacific whiting in California ports, the shorebased Pacific whiting fleet, together with the shorebased Pacific whiting processing industry (Seafood Dealers and Processors), remained largely concentrated in Oregon during the baseline period. The number of shorebased Pacific whiting boats making landings in Astoria and Newport increased but dropped in Coos Bay. The number of shorebased Pacific whiting boats making landings in Washington ports was relatively stable during the baseline period.

During Catch Share Program

After implementation of the Shorebased IFQ program, there was a large increase in the number of non-whiting groundfish vessels landing in Morro Bay—from four in the 2006-to-2010 period to 24 in the 2011-to-2015 period—due primarily to participation by vessels with limited entry trawl permits using fixed gear to target IFQ sablefish (Financial Viability of the Fishery: Landings). Monterey also experienced an increase in non-whiting groundfish vessel activity. However, all other California ports and all ports in Oregon showed declines in the number of non-whiting groundfish vessels making landings relative to the five years prior to catch share program implementation. The decline happened for a number of reasons, including a decision by some fishermen to sell their non-whiting groundfish QP to other vessel owners and either enter different fisheries or stop fishing entirely (Number of Active Vessels). This exiting from the non-whiting groundfish fishery while retaining ownership of a QS permit may explain to some extent how after catch share program implementation Coos Bay experienced a decline in both the number of vessels landing non-whiting groundfish and number of resident non-whiting groundfish vessels (Active Vessels by Homeport ), while also being among the communities that have consistently had the highest percentage of QS permit owners (QS Permit Distribution by Community ). The number of non-whiting groundfish vessels making landings in south-central Washington increased, but no boats made non-whiting groundfish landings in the north Washington coast ports after program implementation.

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), virtually all vessels stopped delivering Pacific whiting to Crescent City and Eureka. The number of shorebased Pacific whiting boats making landings in Astoria and Newport increased slightly, while shorebased Pacific whiting vessel activity in Washington ports declined.

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/

Norman, K., et al. 2007. Community Profiles for West Coast and North Pacific Fisheries–Washington, Oregon, California, and Other U.S. States. National Marine Fisheries Service, Northwest Regional Office. Seattle, WA.

Pomeroy, C. et al. 2010. California’s North Coast Fishing Communities Historical Perspective and Recent Trends. Prepared for California State Coastal Conservancy. Oakland, CA.

Updated: May 2018

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