Rockfish for the Future: A Solution-Based, Multidisciplinary Workshop and Discussion - March 1999

Panel on Live Fish Fisheries

Rob Collins, Chair, California Department of Fish and Game, Monterey, CA.
Carrie Pomeroy, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA.
Lynne Yamanaka, Pacific Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Nanaimo, B.C.
Kirk Solomon, Fish Buyer, Solomon Live Fish, Moss Landing, CA.
William Powell, Commercial Fisherman, Morro Bay, CA.

Summary statement:

The live fish fishery is probably the newest of the rockfish fisheries, and it is the one that people know least about, so let´s begin with the definition of a live fish. Aren´t all fish live when you catch them? The answer is that a live fish is a fish removed from the ocean alive, and kept alive until sold. This panel discussed the fishery, where it´s going, what its opportunities are, what problems that exist, and how can we move towards effective management of the fishery, with the goal of sustainable use of the resource? Technology has done wondrous things for us over the years, it has helped us remove fish from California waters and deliver it live to New York. There has been a large increase in this fishery in the last 5 years, from a fishery that didn´t even exist 10 years ago. In California, it has been, until recently, an unregulated fishery, anybody who wanted to participate could participate, there were no size limits and no quotas. The Near Shore Fisheries Management Act, has, for the first time, put some restrictions on catches in the live fish fishery, developing size limits, and for the first time, requiring individual permits. The Marine Life Management Act mandates that the fishing agencies in California develop a management plan for the near shore fisheries, and adopt it by January 1, 2002 and the live fish fishery is one component of the near shore fishery. To complicate matters, not all the fish that are caught in the fisheries are rockfish, in Southern California, particularly, other species such as cabezon and sheephead predominate. Additionally, the species composition changes as you move either north or south.

The Live fish panel explored the status of live fish fisheries on the West Coast of North America. British Columbia's fishery is the most advanced, with a fishery management history of more than 15 years. The Province has in place the most advanced management, followed by California, which still was in its infancy.

The panel explored the problems being experienced in these fisheries using a modified Nominal Group Technique (NGT) process. The most persistent problem in both areas appeared to be that of over harvest due to an excess number of participants. British Columbia was considering reducing its fleet size by one-half to bring the harvest into line with expected sustainable yields. Although the number of participants in California's fishery was unknown at the time of the Forum, California fishery participants present also favored the imposition of some sort of limited entry on the fishery. Many felt that the size limits recently enacted would not have a significant impact on the management ofthe fishery and would lead to increased discards by the fishery participants. The use of no harvest zones (marine protected areas) was advanced as a possibly effective management tool. Some participants felt that as much as 20 percent of the fishable area would need to be protected to make this management tool effective.

The most valuable part of this panel's work appeared to be the dialog, which occurred between people with different concerns and perspectives. We are hopeful that dialog will be continued and expanded during the development of California's Nearshore Fishery Management Plan.

The panel recognized that the term “live-fish fishery” is a misnomer, the fishery is for near shore finfish, but the live fish market drives that fishery, and landings in this fishery have increased. What follows is a subset of the list of problems, opportunities, and solutions developed by the panel (see below for the full list). The group developed a list of thirty issues of concern (representing input from all in attendance at this panel) then for purposes of discussion, was reduced to the six most important, identified by the people in the group. The number one issue is that there are too many people participating in this fishery. Additional issues included a lack of information on the stocks being fished, particularly stock size, and a lack of education and outreach to inform the public, ourselves, and people making the regulatory decisions about the fishery. The pros and cons of reserves were discussed and the feeling from the panel was one of caution, to not jump into reserves without strong indication that they are effective management tools, as was the idea of increasing the data to support stock assessments. Some of the recommendations, particularly for California, were to separate the nearshore groundfish fishery from the offshore, and not manage them as a single unit, and to involve the public in making management decisions. The group thought that by combining the knowledge and history of all the people along the coast, the fishermen, fishery managers, sociologists and economists, and environmental groups, there was a real opportunity to get it right the first time in creating a management scheme for this fishery. The final portion of the meeting focused on developing a shopping list of possible solutions including increased funding for research, education and outreach, and continued public input at all levels of the process.

Problem statements:
1. Too many fishermen
2. Lack of stock info.
3. Education and outreach
4. Reserves
5. Getting good data
6. User conflicts

Prioritized goals:
1. Develop a sustainable fishery.
2. Separate near/offshore (quotas) and management.
3. Involve everyone.
4. Develop management correctly the first time.
5. Take advantage of others´ experience.
6. Combine knowledge.

Problem statement 1: Too Many Fishermen
Solutions statements and recommended actions:

• Do not discriminate against small skiff fishers. • Develop gear limits. • Raise license fees. • Limit participation in the fishery to those participating prior to 1996. • Cut the number of participants to a level that would take ½ of current amount of pounds landed. • Cut the number of participants to those who get > 75% of livelihood from the fishery (or some index related to livelihood). • Investigate the idea of individual quotas (IQs) (no transferability) and individual transferable quotas (ITQs). • Restrict access to those participating the longest in fishery (or some sort of qualifying history). • Investigate the idea of area permits. • Utilize temporal closures – all ports or other area restrictions. • Set a moratorium on the fishery immediately until studies are done that show the stocks can support fishing pressure. • No area restrictions to limited entry.

Problem statement 2: Lack of stock information
Solution statements and recommended actions:

• Provide funding for sampling, surveys, and research. • Collect fishery independent data and develop a reliable stock index. • Collect information from log books, improved landings tickets and mandatory landing receipts. • Contract or enlist support and help from fishers to provide information. • Identify total fishing mortalities.

Problem statement 3: Insufficient education and outreach
Solution statement and recommended actions:

• Hold public meetings and seminars and advertise them well. • Support more input from fishers speak. • Fund the seafood council for education. • Develop a California Department of Fish and Game quarterly newsletter with data, issues and events. • Post port-specific flyers and accurate news releases after meetings – collaborate with all partners. • Stress to the media the need to avoid sensationalism report issues fairly. • Invite the media and public more to local pertinent meetings. • Bring in background info with statements and admit limitations. • Identify funding sources. • Cooperate with all involved. • Demonstrate how live fishing works. • Communicate with consumers about purchasing and eating fish. • Be proactive – get the message out and keep it simple and concise. • Create a live fish fishers organization to promote positive public relations. • All parties should collaborate to develop information for the media and public and should effectively disseminate it. • Forum participants from today should give positive input on meetings.

Problem statement 4: Marine reserves
Solution statements and recommended actions:

• Use already existing resources to determine the effectiveness of marine reserves (larval settlement, juvenile habitat, adult recruitments). • Support reserves as complete no-take zones. • Educate on value of reserves in conservation. How do they help? Effectiveness? • Develop smaller reserves, from 80 – 150 feet. • No more reserves – need data from existing ones. • Work with fishermen on location and configuration of reserves avoiding clumping of reserves into one area, and placing in launch areas. • Close some marine reserves to all take and leave some open. • Demonstrate how to evaluate commercial fishing. • Include user groups in data collection.

Problem statement 5: Getting good data
Solution statements and recommended actions:

• Develop new landing receipts. • Use Logbook information (CPUE, species/location). • Enforce monitoring evasion (data collection tied to permits). • Gather first-hand knowledge from fishers. • Deploy observers to collect information. • Set up research to incorporate suggestions from this Forum. • Limit entry into the fishery. • Develop an equitable management plan with commercial and recreational interests. • Educate fishers in biology / educate biologists in fishing (more education and outreach with fishers regarding the importance of information.

Problem statement 6: User Conflicts Solution statements and recommended actions:

• Identify and document existing conflicts. • Increase communication, education, outreach and involvement. • Develop state controlled and run monitoring stations. • Allocate take by documenting historical use. • Allocate based on: economic returns / gear and time, gear that causes the least amount of discards, IFQs. • Landing receipts should also be required for recreational fishing, providing take and discards.