Posts Tagged fishermen

Jun 2 2015

Fishing Industry Feeling the Pain After Refugio Oil Spill


The recent closure of 138 square miles of fishing grounds impacted by the Refugio oil spill has prompted commercial fishermen based at Santa Barbara Harbor to initiate claims against Plains All American Pipeline, the owner of the faulty infrastructure that dumped more than 100,000 gallons of crude along the Gaviota coastline on May 19.

Several commercial fisheries — including lobster, crab, shrimp, halibut, urchin, squid, whelk, and sea cucumber, among others — have grounds in the closed area, according to lobsterman Chris Voss, president of Commercial Fisherman of Santa Barbara (CFSB), a nonprofit advocate for economically and biologically sustainable fisheries. “These guys have pretty significant, legitimate claims,” he said.

As of midday last Thursday, six of 51 total claims were submitted by commercial fishermen, according to a spokesperson with the Refugio Response Joint Information Center. Voss expects that number to climb as fishermen carefully assess the value of their lost time and take. “We would advise fishermen to be slow and deliberate when it comes to filing a claim,” he said. To field and facilitate claims, Plains All American Pipeline has a hotline at

Voss said he was aware of two instances of game wardens warning fishermen for harvesting within the closed area. In both cases, neither boat was cited, according to Alexia Retallack, an information officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, but a shrimper was forced to dump his catch back into the sea, as a public-health precaution. “Nobody has been cited as of this time,” Retallack said. “[Any contact between wardens and fishermen] is educational — we’re just letting fisherman know the boundaries and to pull their gear and leave the area. It’s not punitive.”

Citations would only add insult to injury, and while CFSB’s first concern is that the impacted marine environment return to health, Voss said, fishermen who target that region want to get back to work as soon as possible. “The intertidal area looks to have been hit the hardest,” he said, referring to the area between the low- and high-tide lines. “But the amount of oil in the open ocean appears limited. We’re interested in modifying the duration of the closure and its overall footprint. We’d like access to fishing grounds farther offshore.”

When that might happen is a matter of public safety. Using the omnipresent California mussel as the proverbial canary in a coal mine, biologists with the state’s Office of Spill Response and Protection need at least six weeks to harvest and test the edible bivalve mollusk for contaminants. Such analysis can reveal what’s happening in and around the surf line, but not so much in terms of deeper offshore waters, contends Voss, who’s hoping for a coordinated effort between scientists and fisherman for more comprehensive testing.

In the meantime, CFSB is also attempting to alleviate any concern that local seafood markets are stocked with fish and shellfish contaminated by the spill. They’re not, said Voss. “The closed area is adequate to protect the public from consuming contaminated seafood.”

The fisheries closure — which prohibits commercial and recreational harvesting, both offshore and from the beach — initially went into effect on May 19, shutting down an area two miles wide and half a mile seaward. On May 21, it was amended by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response to its current expanse, which runs six miles out to sea between Coal Oil Point to Hollister Ranch’s Cañada de Alegria.

For precise boundaries, visit the Fisheries Closure Map at


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May 19 2015

“Deadliest catch”? Not even in the top three

deadliest_catch“Deadliest Catch” (Credit: Discovery Channel)

 Cod, scallop & Dungeness fisheries have Bering Sea crabbing beat as far as risk — but they’re all getting safer
Nick Rahaim

In the 11th season of Discovery Channel’s flagship show “The Deadliest Catch,” the title’s fallacy still goes largely unnoted. Crab fishing on the Bering Sea isn’t the deadliest fishery in the United States, and it hasn’t been for the entire run of the show; it’s not even in the top three. Two East Coast fisheries are the ones where fishermen are most likely to become fish food.

Groundfish—including cod and flounder—on the East Coast was the deadliest fishery in the U.S. from 2000 to 2009, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, followed by Atlantic scallops. The third, with which I have personal experience, is Dungeness crab fishing on the Oregon and Washington coasts. Data from 2010 to 2014 shows the trend continuing through this decade. The rankings are based on workforce estimates and their full-time equivalents.

Aside from an inaccurate title for a “reality” program, we should cheer the fact that fishing in an inhospitable environment is becoming safer by the year. Far fewer people are dying so vacationers in Las Vegas and affluent businessmen and bureaucrats in China can gorge themselves on what appear to be overgrown spiders. Commercial fishing is becoming safer. From 1990 to 2014 there was a 74 percent drop in commercial fishing fatalities in Alaska, according to NIOSH. Furthermore, in 2013 commercial fishing dropped to No. 2 — behind logging — in the list of deadliest occupations, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This is not to take away from the intensity of crab fishing on the Bering Sea: High seas, subfreezing temperatures, sleepless nights and heavy gear can fuck you up quickly. While I’ve never made my way to the Bering Sea for crab fishing, I did use those large, 7-by-7-foot, 700-pound traps while fishing for Pacific cod off the Alaskan Peninsula one March. As a trap swung from a picking boom above, I attempted to stabilize what seemed to be a gentle swing and was thrown back and sandwiched against another trap on deck, likely cracking one of my ribs — an injury that only added to the misery of the following weeks.

We, as audiences, love the death defiers, the risk-takers who throw themselves in harm’s way whether for a big payday or just an illusory and fleeting sense of glory. From the well-born Victorian adventurers to the modern-day action sports icons, those who needlessly put their lives in danger have captured the imagination and intrigue of the coddled, comfortable classes. The more danger, and the more inherent risk that’s displayed — deceptive or not — the more viewers tune in.
I once worked with a man who was on “The Deadliest Catch” for a season, a man infamous for getting fired on camera and then crying about it. From him and others I’ve heard that when the sea and wind come up and it gets too dangerous to fish, the show’s producers ask the crew to stay on deck and scurry around to get shots of “working” in big weather. I’ve also heard that some “dangerous situations” actually occur when the boat is safely tied up to the dock. Fishing stories perhaps … perhaps not.

More than half of the deaths in the commercial fishing industry, 51 percent, are caused by vessel disasters: flooding, instability and rogue waves. The second leading cause of death is falling overboard, coming in at 31 percent. Of the 178 people who died from overboard falls from 2000 to 2009, not one was wearing a portable floatation device. Another unsubstantiated bit of fishing lore: Most of those found dead in the water have their fly unzipped — relieving oneself over the side of the boat can be pretty dangerous if no one’s looking. In the golden age of Bering Sea crabbing, paychecks were big and lives were cheap. Crab fishing in the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands was likely once the deadliest fishery in the United States, but data on commercial fishing deaths were not recorded nationally until 2000. In the 1990s an average of more than eight people a year died on the Bering Sea fishing for crab.

“There were people dying left and right in the 1970s and ’80s,” says Scott Wilmert, a commercial fishing vessel safety manager with the United States Coast Guard. In 1999 the Coast Guard stepped in and began mandatory annual safety and stability checks on the crab boats. In the years since there have been a total of nine deaths, compared to 50 deaths in the Atlantic scallop fishery over the same time period. But fear not, human life has no bearing on the ecological health of a fishery so Atlantic scallops are in the process of being listed as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council and are currently listed as a “Good Alternative” by Seafood Watch.

Crabbing on the Bering Sea went through a drastic change in management after the first season of “The Deadliest Catch.” In 2005, crab fishing was rationalized, where the chaotic, derby-style management was replaced with an individual fishing quota. Instead of having just a few weeks to catch all the crab they could, causing boats to fish around the clock, often in dangerous weather, under the quota system boats have months to catch their limit and can avoid working in the most dangerous conditions. Rationalization has also shrunk the fleet from more than 250 boats in the early 2000s to roughly 85 well-capitalized and better-maintained boats. This also caused hundreds of deckhands to lose their jobs and made millionaires of captains overnight.

Commercial fishing in the U.S. is one of the last bastions of laissez-faire self-regulation. There has been no significant labor law in the industry since the Jones Act of 1920, and that only allowed seamen to make claims for damages if the captain was negligent or the vessel was unseaworthy. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has no jurisdiction over most boats fishing in U.S. waters, and until this year the United States Coast Guard didn’t perform mandatory vessel inspections on fishing boats.

The vast majority of captains have understood the value of having properly functioning safety equipment: immersion suits, life rafts, electronic emergency beacons and high-water alarms. Those who have ignored basic safety — going by the tired trope, “I’ve done more with less” — have at times caused themselves and their crew to lose their lives on the water.

Nevertheless, commercial fishing will always carry an inherent risk that cannot be fully mitigated by regulation and safety protocol. It is that very risk that will continue to draw some people to the profession and capture the imaginations of audiences with romanticized stories of life at sea — true or not.

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Apr 16 2015

Council Votes to Close 2015-2016 Pacific Sardine Fishery

Regarding Council action yesterday to close what’s left of the 2014-15 sardine fishery, the Council recommended that NMFS close the directed fishery in the fastest way possible, using current rule making authority.   This action stopped short of declaring an emergency, which would require justification and new rule making which could take more than a month.  The Council explanation was that this closure was recommended as an added layer of precaution, considering the recent sharp decline observed in the sardine biomass due to lack of recruitment in the past few years.  Given the recent uptick in directed landings in both OR and CA, it is expected that the closure could be implemented in about a week.

 This action, as well as the 2015 stock assessment, did not – and could not under current rules – take into consideration the recent spawning activity observed off the Oregon coast and the small fish now appearing in both California and Oregon, an indication that recruitment is now occurring.



Rohnert Park, California – The Pacific Fishery Management Council today announced the closure of the 2015-16 Pacific sardine directed fishery, beginning July 1.Pacific Council members heard from scientists that the abundance forecast for the 2015-2016 season, scheduled to start July 1, was significantly below the 150,000 metric ton threshold for a directed fishery. They also heard testimony from fishery participants and environmental groups before reaching a decision to close the directed fishery. Small amounts of sardines may be taken incidental to target fishing on other stocks, and a much reduced harvest amount was allocated to the Quinault Indian Nation along the mid-Washington coast.

“While this is a sad day for all those dependent on a healthy sardine fishery, it is actually a good thing that this Council is addressing the problem directly, something you don’t always see across the nation or certainly, internationally,” said Council member Frank Lockhart of National Marine Fisheries Service. “This Council cutback on salmon with extensive closures a decade or so ago, and the Klamath and Sacramento stocks rebuilt fairly quickly. This Council also cut back on lingcod and other groundfish catches in the recent past, and those stocks are also rebuilt. This action today paves the way for the sardine population to rebuild as soon as the ocean cycles permit.”

Sardines are subject to large natural population swings associated with ocean conditions. In general, sardines thrive in warm water regimes, such as those of the 1930s, and decline in cool water years, like the 1970s. After reaching a recent year peak of about one million metric tons in 2006, the sardine biomass has dropped to an estimated 97,000 metric tons this year. (Biomass is the (estimated) weight of a stock of fish.)

Council Vice Chair Herb Pollard said, “The Council’s Fishery Management Plan has done its job. When the sardine stock declines to this point, the directed commercial fishery stops. This is a testimony to the precautionary provisions the Pacific Council has locked into our management regime.”

“We know boats will be tied up, but the goal here is to return this to a productive fishery,” said Council member David Crabbe.

The Council takes a precautionary approach to managing Pacific sardines. When the fish are abundant, more fishing is allowed; but as the stock size declines, the amount of allocated to harvest decreases. When the biomass is estimated at or below 150,000 metric tons, directed commercial fishing is shut down.

Although directed commercial fishing will close, the Council will allow up to 7,000 tons of sardines to account for small amounts taken as incidental catch in other fisheries (such as mackerel), live bait harvest, Tribal harvest, and research. However, if the allocated amount of incidental harvest is reached, those other fisheries will also be shut down.

On Wednesday, April 15, the Council will consider whether to take the additional step of making changes to the remaining months of the current season, which ends June 30.

The sardine biomass is assessed annually, and the fishing year runs July 1 through June 30. Although sardine fishing doesn’t generate the money that some other fisheries do, it is an important source of income for communities up and down the west coast.

Sardine productivity is generally linked to ocean temperatures, but it’s not a perfect relationship. For example, temperatures in the Southern California Bight have risen in the past two years, but we haven’t seen an increase in young sardines as expected.

The allowable harvest in recent years has been as high as 109,000 metric tons (2012), but has dropped as the biomass has dropped. In 2013 the harvest guideline was 66,495 mt, in 2014 it was 23,293 mt. Exvessel revenues were $21.5 million in 2012. Sardine exports were valued at $44 million in 2010 and $34.8 million in 2011.
Council Role

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 for the purpose of managing fisheries 3-200 miles offshore of the United States of America coastline. The Pacific Council recommends management measures for fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

All Council meetings are open to the public.

Apr 14 2015

Feds lower boom: no sardine fishery next year

By Jason Hoppin, Monterey County Herald


Rohnert Park >> For the first time in 30 years, boats operating along the West Coast will be banned from pursuing the fish that helped build Cannery Row: sardines.

Meeting Sunday in Rohnert Park, federal fishery regulators canceled the 2015-16 sardine fishery, which was set to begin July 1. For the first time since 1986 — when the sardine fishery was nurtured back to life following an 18-year fishing ban that stretched back to the collapse of Monterey Bay’s fishing industry — fishermen will have to make their livelihoods elsewhere.

“We know boats will be tied up, but the goal here is to return this to a productive fishery,” said David Crabbe, a Carmel fisherman and member of the Pacific Fishery Management Council who voted in favor of the ban.

On Wednesday, regulators will also vote on an emergency closure of the remaining sardine season through June 30, a vote that would largely impact Oregon fishermen.

The moves are a sign the West Coast sardine population, which rises and falls with natural cycles, has reached a nadir. Fishery regulators estimate there are less than 97,000 metric tons of sardines off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington, far below the minimum of 150,000 tons needed to sustain even a modest fishery.

Sardines have become a flashpoint in an ongoing debate between environmentalists, regulators and commercial interests in how to best manage the ocean’s resources. Since they are prey for larger fish, such as salmon and tuna, not to mention birds and marine mammals, they have taken on a much greater role in debates about the ocean’s ecosystem than their lowly status would seem to warrant.

Sunday’s vote was a victory for environmental groups, which have been adamant for years that more needs to be done to manage a fish that is critical to the ocean’s food chain.

“It turns out the sky was falling,” said Geoff Shester, California program director for Monterey-based Oceana.

Fishing interests weren’t happy about the vote, which had been expected after initial sardine assessments showed the numbers are very low. But they supported it.

“This is a harvest control rule that we support,” said Dianne Pleschner-Steele, executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association. “It is doing exactly what it’s intended to do.”

Area fishermen hauled in more than 820 tons of sardines in 2013, according to state figures. It is Monterey Bay’s second-largest fishery, far behind market squid.

Despite closing the fishery, the council will allow 7,000 tons of sardines to be fished by native tribes, taken for recreational bait or taken by boats seeking other species, such as anchovies or mackerel.

Paul Shivley, Portland, Oregon-based project manager for The Pew Charitable Trusts, said he was pleased overall with the council’s action but disappointed it allowed so much “incidental” fish to be caught.

“What they’ve created is a situation where the rebound will inevitably be slower because how much they left for incidental fisheries,” Shivley said.

That catch allows fishermen to continue fishing other fish, with nets often scooping up a number of species at once. If the 7,000-ton limit is reached, other fisheries could be shut down as well to protect sardines.

“The council, thankfully, is allowing a small incidental catch so that we can at least do our other fisheries,” Pleshner-Steele said, later adding: “It’s going to be a hard year for the fleet. There’s no doubt about it.”

Pew is also urging the council to take a closer look at anchovies, which can also be abundant in Monterey Bay. He is concerned sardine boats would turn their attention to that fishery, which is monitored by regulators but not capped.

“What we’re asking the council to do is update their stocks assessment and get a better handle on anchovies before it becomes a free-for-all,” Shivley said.

Oceana maintains that sardines have been overfished for years, citing a council recalculation that lowered the maximum amount of sardines that could be sustainably fished.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Shester said of the fishery closure. “But irreversible ecosystem damage has already occurred that will persist for decades.”

Pleshner-Steele strongly rejected the overfishing allegation, saying sardines rise and fall naturally.

“Fishing has a minimal impact. It does have some. In the long term, this fishery is managed excruciatingly precautionary,” she said.

Fishermen maintain there are more sardines in the sea than federal assessments show, an argument Shester rejects.

“The reality is, neither scientists nor fishermen nor all those starving sea lion mothers can go find them,” Shester said. “Show us the fish, if that‘s the explanation.”

For months, starving sea lion pups have washed up on California beaches, with no signs of slowing. Federal scientists blame changes in ocean conditions, and Pleschner-Steele said El Niño and overpopulation is to blame, not fishing.

“Sure, there’s (no fish) in the water for those young pups to eat. But that doesn’t mean the fishermen took them,” she said.

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Mar 13 2015

Trawling has “negligible” effect on soft-bottom

petralesolePetrale sole, a flatfish caught by trawling on soft-bottom seafloor. Credit: The Nature Conservancy

A groundbreaking new study recently conducted by California fishermen, The Nature Conservancy and CSU Monterey Bay indicates that bottom trawling only has a “negligible effect” on the seafloor and fish habitat in certain types of soft sea bottom.

Trawling is continually criticised by environmental advocates for the damage it causes to rocky marine habitats and the long-lived animals that occur in them. However, important questions remain about the extent of any damage to sandy and muddy environments.

During the three-year study, fishermen trawled patches of the ocean floor off Morro Bay. Those areas were analysed by underwater photos and video and compared with nearby areas that were untouched.

Their peer-reviewed work, published in the Fishery Bulletin, found that California’s largely soft-bottom seafloor saw little lasting impacts from trawling with a small-footrope trawl.

The researchers say that their study adds to a growing body of literature from around the world showing trawling impacts are context-dependent – the impacts depend on the type of gear used, the types of habitats trawled and how often trawling occurs.

The scientists point out that their study does not imply that all soft-bottom habitats should be open to trawling; but, with new research and technology, “we can fine-tune our fishery regulations to protect truly vulnerable habitats.”

One of the researchers, Dr. James Lindholm has been studying marine ecosystems for 20 years and this autumn he will conduct a similar experiment off Half Moon Bay using trawling nets of different sizes. Commercial fishermen will also be involved.

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Dec 19 2014

President Obama signs discharge permit exemption for commercial fisheries

WASHINGTON — (Saving Seafood) December 19, 2014 — After Congress voted unanimously this week to extend a three year moratorium exempting commercial fishing vessels 79 feet and under from needing incidental discharge permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for deck washing, the President signed the extension into law on Thursday.

Yesterday, President Obama signed into law the “Howard Coble Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014,” exempting small fishing vessels from the EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) discharge permit requirements. The law extended the exemption provision for three years on the very day that the EPA’s NPDES permit requirements would have taken effect.

The regulation was intended to prevent fuels, toxic chemicals, or hazardous waste from entering the water. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told the Alaska Journal of Commernce that requiring a permits for fishermen to hose down a boat is overkill – especially when recreational boats, including mega-yachts – are exempt from the rule.

“We want to abide by environmental regulations that make sense,” Murkowski told the Journal, “But I don’t think any of us believe it should be a requirement for a fishermen who has had a good day out on the water, and they are cleaning up the boat, and hosing slime and maybe some fish guts off the deck and that then becomes a reportable discharge to the EPA…. Let’s use some common sense here.”

Read more about the extension from the Alaska Journal of Commerce here

View the full Act signed by the President here


Nov 25 2014

Kayakers Blown Out to Sea Rescued by Squid-Fishing Boats

High winds blew six kayakers out to sea, where squid-fishing boats and lifeguards on Jetskis rescued them

Six kayakers were blown a mile out to sea, and rescued by squid fishing boat crews, as 50-mile-per-hour Santa Ana winds cropped up suddenly in Malibu Sunday.

Sustained winds of 47 miles per hour, and a gust of 81 mph, were recorded in the hills above Malibu Sunday, as the six kayakers were blown south.

A large fleet of squid-fishing boats from Port Hueneme had been clustered near Point Mugu, taking advantage of ocean currents that concentrate squid there.

At least two of the kayaks were snared by the squid fleet to prevent them from being blown further out to sea. Lifeguards then used “Jetski”-type watercraft to tow the kayaks back to shore at about 9 a.m.

The rescue was a joint operation of lifeguards from Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and California State Parks.

Paramedics examined the kayakers at Countyline Beach and pronounced them fine. Lifeguards said the people had been fishing just west of the Los Angeles-Ventura county line.

Winds had been calm in western Malibu at 7 a.m., but were blowing at up to 50 miles per hour at Leo Carrillo Beach, straight out to sea, when the rescue occurred.

In Malibu, power lines were reported down on Latigo Canyon Road, one mile uphill from Pacific Coast Highway. Traffic was getting through in the area, a deputy said, and no fire was reported.

“When the winds are blowing offshore, it’s a bad time to kayak,” observed LA County Lifeguards Capt. Dan Murphy. “Make sure to have a signal device, and a personal flotation device.”

Earlier in the day, four paddleboarders were reported in distress to LA County lifeguards at around 11:30 a.m.

They were out in sustained 45 mph winds that stopped them from paddling back to shore, so the Malibu watch boat picked them up.

The hurricane-force, 81 mph wind gust was reported at a Mesonet weather station operated by a homeowner near Saddle Peak, at the 1,500 foot elevation. It was reported on the National Weather Service website at 10:15 a.m. That was not an official NWS reading, however.

Along the beach, palm fronds, eucalyptus branches and tumbleweeds were observed blowing across PCH at 8 a.m.



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Nov 18 2014

Dungeness crab fishery opens on Central California Coast, hundreds of boats participate

Published with permission from SEAFOODNEWS.COM by John Sackton Nov. 18, 2014
The Central California dungeness crab season opened on Saturday, and initial reports are that the catches are going well.

“”We’re guardedly optimistic,” said Zeke Grader executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association.

“We could very well be looking at year records for this time of year, but that doesn’t mean there’s necessarily more crab than in previous years, it just means more crab has been harvested earlier.”

Each year vessels in the northern zones of California and Oregon have to make a decision whether to participate in the early Bay Area fishery that opens November 15th, or wait until the regular season opens in the Northern sections, which usually is around December 1st, but can be delayed by slow growth of the crabs.

Any vessel fishing in the southern zone has to wait 30 days after the northern seasons open before itr can return to fish in the northern areas.

This year, most boats from Crescent city in Northern California set out to fish the Bay area, based on reports of abundant crabs, and the recent facts that the central area has landed more crab than the north.

Last year, the northern area landed about 6.68 million lbs, while the southern area landed 10.41 million lbs.  This is different than the historical average, where landings are generally higher in the north.

In Northern California, Oregon and Washington, the opening is determined by when a test fishery operated by the three states shows the crabs have sufficient meat fill, above 25%.  This year, the tests are being done as late as possible.

Anecdotal reports from some of the sport fisheries suggest the crabs have good meat fill, and that the season may open on December 1st.

Tests for Eureka and Crescent city should be available later this week.

Between 2013 and 2014, dungeness landings coast wide fell about 28%.  The shortfall, combined with strong live market demand from china, has led to consistently high dungeness prices over the past year.

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Nov 9 2014

Morro Bay’s fishing industry reels in largest catch in 20 years

6.8 million pounds of fish landings were reported in 2013 in Morro Bay, up from low of 668,866 pounds in 2007, study of data from Department of Fish and Wildlife reveals

By Nick Wilson | November 6, 2014


The fishing industry in Morro Bay has regained its sea legs, bouncing back from a 20-year low in 2007 to post its largest catch by volume since 1993, according to an economic impact report released this week.

Lisa Wise Consulting Inc. compiled the study, which showed a boost in earnings of more than 300 percent from about $2 million in 2007 to about $7.1 million in 2013 — the latest year of data accumulated.

The report documents a rise in fish landings from a low of 668,866 pounds in 2007 to nearly 6.8 million pounds in 2013, the highest single-year landing total since the boom times of the early ’90s.

The report relies on figures documented under government regulations, including information provided by the fishing industry to the Marine Fisheries Statistical Unit at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

This is the fourth consecutive year of the report, which was produced this year with $6,000 in funding provided by the Central California Joint Cable/Fisheries Liaison Committee. The Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization also partners in the project. “As fishermen, we have an understanding of the industry, but others often don’t,” said Jeremiah O’Brien, a member and past president of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization. “We do those reports to show people what’s happening.”

Lots of good news
The latest data shows a steady trend of increased earnings and landings, although the figures haven’t yet matched peak years of the 1990s, which topped 9 million pounds of landings in 1990 and eclipsed 10 million in 1993.

In 2008, the city of Morro Bay paid for an economic study that predicted a change from a once-thriving fishing industry to a primarily recreational fishing and boating area.

However, the city has since recognized the recovery of the commercial fishing industry, which “should continue to play a significant role in the social and economic future of Morro Bay,” staff members wrote in a recent report.

One of the factors that contributed to the decade-long decline in Morro Bay’s fishing industry — in additional to environmental closures and restrictions of fishing in certain ocean areas — occurred in 2006 with the purchase of Morro Bay’s fishing quota.

The Nature Conservancy bought out Morro Bay’s entire trawl fishing industry in 2006 with the goal of protecting and growing fish populations while limiting fishing.

About eight trawlers left the business, which exacerbated the decline in landings in those years, O’Brien said.

Since that time, the local industry has steadily improved, and earlier this year, the Conservancy transferred the quotas to the Morro Bay Community Quota Fund, which manages the fishing quota and leases fishing permits to local fishermen, who may trawl under specified environmental restrictions such as avoiding trawling in coral reef areas.

How the catch evolved
While the overall catch and earnings have climbed in recent years, landings of certain species have declined along with closures and regulations on uses of fishing equipment.

The salmon catch, for example, dropped to 45,000 pounds in 2013, from around 200,000 pounds per year in much of the 1990s.

And halibut, which must be fished outside of three miles from shore, has remained low for the past decade with a total of about 10,328 pounds landed in 2013 compared with takes of more than 40,000 pounds in the early 1990s.

But other species — including Dungeness crab and squid — have spiked.

Crab accounted for 17 percent of 2013 earnings in Morro Bay, climbing to a 20-year high of more than 300,000 pounds in landings.

There were 170,000 pounds of crab caught in 2006, which was the previous high in the past two decades. There was little to no crab caught between 2008 and 2011.

“The last couple of years we’ve seen a lot more crab,” O’Brien said. “Crab is typically cyclical, and we’ll have bigger catches usually about every six years. But they’ve been spawning in big numbers the past three in a row.”

The squid catch has also swelled, with landings of more than 4 million pounds in 2013.

That total hasn’t been matched since 1993, the only other year in the past two decades to top 4 million pounds of squid.

O’Brien said that a couple of fishing boats have made the investment in catching large numbers of squid along the Central Coast, which has kept squid processing companies from Watsonville and San Pedro, the closest around, returning to Morro Bay because it’s worth their while.

Another factor in the boom in local crab and squid fishing has been a trending preference for the seafood in China, where local buyers are shipping their products.

Local fishermen including Bill Blue have seen their sales of live crab, transported to China, significantly boost income over the past few years.

Like fellow anglers, Blue fishes for a variety of species, including black cod, but the high price that crab fetches in China is too lucrative to pass up.

“It’s good for business, but sad in some ways because you don’t see as many local restaurants buying crab because of the high price (driven by the Chinese market),” Blue said. “That means local people can’t go and get them as easily.”


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Oct 25 2014

$quid Inc. 2014 — Video by Jason Crosby

squidVideo by Jason Crosby (YouTube).

Squid fishing in Monterey Ca. Lots of boats, lots of squid.