West coast stocks increase promotes fishing

Groundfish stocks on the US west coast are on the increase Photo: NOAA Groundfish stocks on the US west coast are on the increase Photo: NOAA
Industry Database

Recreational and commercial fishing is on the increase on the US west coast thanks to a halt in the near 30 year decline of groundfish.

The rebuilding of stocks such as Pacific Ocean perch, petrale sole, Pacific cod and sablefish has seen the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ West Coast Region publish a new rule this week increasing catch limits and easing restrictions.

Relaxing the restrictions will mean communities in the region will see an increase of about 900 jobs and US$60m in income in 2019, according to an economic analysis of the new harvest rule. Recreational anglers will take about 219,000 more fishing trips, most of them in southern California with some in Oregon and Washington.

Groundfish represent one of the West Coast’s most important recreational and commercial fisheries, earning around US$140m annually for commercial fishermen who use a variety of gear, including trawls, longlines, pots, and baited hooks.

Stocks had been in decline since the 1990s but thanks to evidence-based management and collaboration between fishermen, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, west coast states and NOAA Fisheries, many stocks rebounded faster than expected and are now fully rebuilt.

The changes are expected to boost commercial and recreational fishing revenues, with sport anglers expected to take thousands more fishing trips off the west coast, boosting recreational fishing income by around US$55m.

The harvest rule changes also promote quota trading among fishermen in the Shore-based Individual Fishing Quota Program, also known as the Groundfish Catch Share Program.

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