New groundfish management plan imposes individual quotas along the West Coast Commercial fishing on the West Coast is embarking on a new and highly controversial era this year. With start of new year trawling groundfish comes under a catch-share system or individual fishing quotas. Under this system individual fishermen or businesses are allocated a percentage of the fish that can be caught and are free to harvest those fish when they want.
Morro Bay’s beleaguered fishing industry is experiencing an upturn. That’s great news not only for the fishermen and their families, but for Morro Bay’s economy as well, which was devastated by the decline in the fishing industry that began in the mid-1990s.
The federal Pacific Fisheries Management Council developed the new rules over the past six years following a disastrous collapse of groundfish stocks. Groundfish are a group of more than 90 different bottom-dwelling species that include flatfish, rockfish and black cod. Chris Kubiak, director of the Central Coast Sustainable Groundfish Association, said that the trawl fishery was having a lot of problems and this program is intended to address those problems.
Catch shares allow fishermen to harvest their portion of the catch when market conditions are favourable. The new rules require greater monitoring and oversight. They are also intended to reduce the amount of waste that occurs when non-targeted species, called by-catch, are caught and thrown overboard dead.
But local fishermen are skeptical of catch shares, to say the least. They are afraid that the new rules will be so complex and expensive to comply with that they will favor large corporate fishing vessels at the expense of small, family fishermen who operate out of Morro Bay and Port San Luis.