Pacific Council Gives Nod to IFQs

By

SeafoodSource staff

Published on
June 12, 2008

The Pacific Fisheries Management Council yesterday voted preliminarily at its meeting in Foster City, Calif., to adopt an individual fishing quota (IFQ) system for the groundfish fishery.

Under the council's draft plan, 80 percent of the groundfish harvest would go to fishermen and 20 percent would go to processors.

IFQs are designed to make fishermen's lives safer by eliminating derby-style fishing and the need to fish in dangerous weather, to reduce bycatch and to increase the value of the fish that are landed. Alaska's halibut, sablefish and crab fisheries operate under an IFQ system.

Still, fishermen and processors disagree over how the quota should be divided.

"It gives processors too much power," Warrenton, Ore., fisherman Kelly Smotherman told the Associated Press. With fuel prices at record highs, he said fishermen like him are struggling to make a living and can't afford to give processors part of the catch.

However, processors are encouraged by how the quota would be split.

"We're happy that there's been a recognition of our interests in this process," said Craig Urness, legal counsel for Pacific Seafood Group of Clackamas, Ore., one of the nation's largest seafood processors.

Groundfish is the West Coast's most valuable harvest, valued at $60 million last year. But some of the 80-plus species that comprise the groundfish classification are ailing, particularly some rockfish species.

In 2000, the U.S. Department of Commerce declared the groundfish fishery a disaster due to sharp population declines in nine of 82 groundfish species. Currently, the council lists seven rockfish species as overfished. In 2003, the federal government agreed to buy back boats to cut the fleet almost in half, leaving about 100 boats.

A final vote is due in November when the council meets in San Diego.

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