The Fort Bragg Groundfish Association and the Central Coast Sustainable Groundfish Association announced today the formalization of a new community-focused fishing agreement — called a risk pool — that pioneers a cooperative approach between local fishery stakeholders to keep fishing communities in business, keep local seafood on our tables and help protect our marine resources. The Nature Conservancy partnered with both associations to develop the necessary data management tools and negotiate agreements between involved fishing interests to launch this innovative approach.
In January 2011, the West Coast groundfish fishery transitioned to a fishing quota system. The new quota system presents the opportunity to improve the economic and environmental performance of the fishery but must be designed with community and conservation benefits in place. The Nature Conservancy has been working with Central Coast fishing communities for more than six years to establish new fishing models that are more environmentally and economically sustainable. As part of this effort, the Conservancy worked with the Fort Bragg Groundfish Association and the Central Coast Sustainable Groundfish Association to finalize an agreement, under the new quota system, to formalize an overfished species quota share risk pool that can help maximize conservation and economic opportunities and retain local access to fish.
“This risk pool is the best hope Fort Bragg has to prosper in the new catch share program,” said Michelle Norvell, manager, Fort Bragg Groundfish Association. “Our outlook is much brighter. With The Nature Conservancy and Central Coast fishermen, we are building the technologies and approaches to cooperatively manage our local fishery, which will allow us to maintain jobs and create stability in this important local industry. Essentially, we’re fishing smarter, not harder.”
A key challenge for the entire fishery in this new quota system is the management of the limited supply of “overfished species” quota that constrains the harvest of more abundant species and the economics of the entire fishery. The new Fort Bragg Groundfish Association–Central Coast Sustainable Groundfish Association risk pool would establish an insurance pool of overfished species quota whereby member fishermen agree to comply with the conservation terms embodied in a collaboratively developed fishing plan. This new risk pool presents high return potential for the advancement of key fishery reform. It is focused on improving the regional scientific understanding of overfished species interactions with fishing, which promises to help improve local economics and rebuild depleted fish stocks.
“The Risk Pool Agreement incorporates best fishing practices based on years of experience on the ocean,” said Norvell. “It is designed to enable individual fishermen to execute a successful year-round, multi-species groundfish fishery. The principle is based on conservation — a concept this group of fishermen are well aware of.”
This partnership is currently working with the Pacific Fishery Management Council to create policies that would allow for greater, long-term durability of collaborative fishery management approaches, like risk pools. Currently, the control rules on quota share, established to minimize consolidation in the fishery, have the unintended consequence of constraining the operations of a risk pool, or any approach in which fishermen work together to manage a jointly held pool of quota. Fishery stakeholders in favor of these collaborative community fishery management approaches have asked the council to consider reasonable exemptions to the quota control rule for these developing tools.
“The council has been deeply involved in looking at all options to keep fishing ports afloat since the groundfish fishing quota program has been under way, and we commend them for investing their time in this process,” said Michael Bell, Central Coast project manager, The Nature Conservancy.
"A few local fishermen worked together with The Nature Conservancy over the last three years to test conservation ideas and fishing methods. We have had to set aside some of our independent nature to work with conservation partners to learn how we can adjust to the change that has been set for the trawl industry on the West Coast. We are pleased with the work our partnership has accomplished. Working together, we hope to regain stable groundfish landings in Morro Bay and the Central Coast and give strength to our local fishery infrastructures,” said Bill Blue, Central Coast Sustainable Groundfish Association.
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