On 25 May, 2001 Oregon Senator Ron Wyden introduced the "Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Preservation Act (S. 973)," a bill to provide relief funding and for the purchase and retirement of commercial groundfish vessels and permits on the US west coast.

The west coast groundfish fleet has been grossly overcapitalized in comparison with the biomass of groundfish now available for harvest, largely as a result of decades of government fleet building incentive programs coupled with poor research survey data leading to extremely optimistic assumptions that considerably overestimated the maximum sustained yield.

The past three years have seen dramatic cutbacks in groundfish quotas at the same time as fishing capacity has peaked, so that now the average boat owner can no longer make a living.

In January, 2000 the Secretary of Commerce declared the west coast groundfish fishery a disaster and fishermen themselves have called for at least a 50% reduction in harvest capacity. "The west coast groundfish fishery is in crisis, and many fishermen are facing bankruptcy," noted Senator Wyden in his floor speech when introducing the bill. "This legislation will help fishermen get through the crisis, and move the fishery toward a more sustainable future."

The bill, co-sponsored by Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

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