Thanksgiving is the time of year when families gather around a turkey (or baked salmon) and reflect on the past year. It’s fitting that we in the fishing community do the same. Sitting on the Groundfish Advisory Panel (GAP) with the PFMC as the Sports Representative, it’s been a year of gains and losses. The imagery comes to mind of the typical cornucopia basket looking like a fluted horn filled with the bountiful harvest. I guess the optimist in me looks at the wide end filled with fruits, crabs, clams, fish, (you get the idea); the cautious side of me eyes warily the pointed end and makes a mental note not to bend over in the vicinity of that pointy end. With that visualization in mind let us proceed.
This was a good year for us. We had an abundance of rockfish, lingcod, forage fish, halibut and salmon; but conversely we had to watch the crab and razor clams happily feast on the bounty of the sea, unmolested by shovels and traps. That is about to change. While we had a longer halibut season than last year, primarily due to heavy seas and high winds, it did allow for a season extending to September 23, whereas last year it closed on August 12. The salmon season was better than I had predicted, especially the early part, but things are not so rosy on the horizon.
Fishing has a direct correlation to economics, as we who fill up at the gas pumps fully realize. The insurance fees, mortgage costs, maintenance fees, gear replacement, on-going efforts to chase the latest gadget or gizmo, all adds up to the benefit of our local economies in the following fashion.
Statistics are like opinions: everybody has one! And let’s establish up front that all models are wrong, but may be useful! With that said here are some figures that I’ve combed out of the salmon season reports, the groundfish models, NOAA data, and fishery reports given to the PFMC. Some are prospective, some a few years old as the groundfish models, and others at various stages in between.
But, if you look at the data in the round, and think big picture, it is interesting.
Salmon recreational efforts produce income of $57,692,000 on the west coast with 279,000 trips.
From Humbug to Horse Mountain the impact is $3,166,000 for 23,700 trips. (Note that for the west coast the average trip is $206/trip while locally its $134/trip? I don’t know why that is.)
West Coast groundfish and halibut recreational efforts yields 1,045,200 trips with an estimate of $215 M income generated. Locally, from Crescent City-Eureka we have 38,100 trips estimated at $7.85 M.
Commercial groundfish has a wide variety of contributors: mother ships, catcher vessels, trawlers, trollers, hook and line, pots, long line, traps, bottom trawl, and mid-water, taken in total as gross revenue yields about $350 M in income. Any way you look at it, fishery efforts yield a lot of impact to the local, state and national economies. So, the next time you pull the trigger on the gas pump, consider it a helping hand to the national effort to spread the wealth…you are doing your part as Uncle Sam would state.
After five years of effort at the PFMC we finally got some relief from the depth restrictions on the groundfish front. Next year we get to go to 30 fathoms from 20 fathoms for our current season length and then go to all depth for the November/December months. We will see a reduction in the black rockfish from five down to three, but we can keep one canary in the 10 fish bag limit. Lings will be reduced from three to two, and the salmon season may become very bleak over the next two years. Petrale and Starry Flounder will be all depth all year (like Sand dabs). Halibut was a disappointment for me on the GAP. Two years ago we got an increase from 1% to 4% of the non-tribal allocation, but any further efforts have been stymied at the Council. The California survey in 2013 and 2014 increased the 2A (Pacific states) allocation by 16% and we are allowed only 2.6% overall, so we could consider that we are being shorted in allocation. The Council doesn’t see it that way, since the Washington folks complain they have closures after only 2-5 days and we have 50-100 days of halibut fishing each year. And, in spite of our best efforts to work to gain more poundage, CDFW seems to support the Washington position. But, I’ll keep at it at the GAP level, and HASA will continue to support efforts to improve our allocation, but without the CDFW support it’s going to be really tough going. But, if you consider yourself one of the salmon people, we are always swimming upstream!
And speaking of salmon we could be in for a tough period. The Coho season up to the Canadian border was disastrous this year, and the past years of drought have caused the death of almost all natural smolts in the Sacramento and Klamath Rivers. The hatchery smolts released in San Pablo Bay will provide some effort, but the natural spawners are really in trouble. The Mate and I took a trip up to the northern tip of Vancouver, BC this year and the King (Springers to them) fishing was very poor. They just didn’t show up in any numbers, but the Coho were abundant and almost considered pests to them. Lots of fun to catch on light gear, but all the bag limits had been reduced.
Regarding groundfish stocks, they are healthy and improving. Our last overfished species up north is the Yelloweye, with the Cowcod a problem in the south. The boccacio and canary are rebuilt, so things are improving. Overall, the efforts by the eight Councils in the USA are steadily rebuilding fishery stocks to be sustaining and healthy. This is not without a lot of pain and economic loss, some with devastating results to individuals and Coastal Communities. But, it was a good year for us and we will have gains and losses next year, but that is the nature of fisheries…a constant ebb and flow of growth and retraction impacted by constantly changing ocean conditions and recruitment surges. HASA is well represented on the PFMC and will continue efforts on your behalf. Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner and get ready for the crab season!