Groundfish Fleet Restructuring (GFR) Information and Analysis Project
Harvests of groundfish have seen precipitous declines in both landings and revenues over the last ten years. There is now general agreement among fishers, scientists, environmentalists and regulators that there are too many boats chasing too few fish.
Federal regulation of the fishery for the states of California, Oregon and Washington lies with the Pacific Fishery Management Council, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce and one of eight regional fishery management councils established under the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 and the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996. In October 2000 the Council adopted a groundfish fishery strategic plan entitled "Transition to Sustainability."
The core objective of the Council plan is to bring the harvest capacity of the fishery in line with resource productivity. The plan proposes a coast-wide fleet reduction of at least 50% and recommends the maintenance a diverse fleet, by both port and gear-type. Invariably, this transition will be costly and not without painful adjustments. As the Council points out, the price of inaction is, however, potentially even higher.
Mitigating the effects of this transition requires systematic information about the coast-wide fishery system and the communities whose livelihoods depend upon it. To fill the knowledge gaps that exist, Ecotrust and the Pacific Marine Conservation Council (PMCC) entered into a collaborative project to develop a set of analytical tools and proposals on the restructuring of the groundfish fleet as well as initial approaches to the future sustainability of the fishery.
The project seeks to assess options for the reduction of fishing capacity from a coast-wide port and community perspective, in the context of important issues such as future fleet diversity, social impacts, small business viability, and potential interactions with stocks of other target species such as crabs or salmon.
We have gathered and analyzed historical and current information on the fishery (fleet composition, landings, stock assessments, habitat and gear interactions, etc.), port and community infrastructure (processing and freezer capacity, labor demographics, distribution and marketing networks, etc.) and ecological resources (essential habitat, spatial distribution of fish and fishing efforts over time, etc.), and put this information into an analytical framework useful to communities and decision-makers alike.
Transparency and input from members of fishing communities, the industry, academic and agency scientists and other interested persons were and continue to be key to this project.
The goals of the Groundfish Information and Analysis Project were to:
- Compile a comprehensive set of data and information in a format that can be used by all who wish to explore fleet reduction options and other management measures.
- Produce a set of analytical tools based on this database, again for use by all. These tools will likely include scenarios on a port by port basis (examining fleet and shore-based infrastructure, harvest history, spatial dynamics, and trends in the fleet); a matrix or simulation to analyze potential social and economic effects of these scenarios; and case studies illustrating different port profiles, empirical information on fishing and processing businesses, market dynamics, and the potential effects of fleet buyout proposals and other management measures.
- Prepare a set of policy options as well as an executive report to be presented to the Pacific Fishery Management Council and available to all interested parties.
These goals have been accomplished as of April 2003 and the work is available through the GFR Final Report and the Groundfish Fleet Analysis Information System on Inforain.
We invite you to with your ideas, questions, and suggestions.