Vote on IFQs for West Coast Groundfish Fishery Due Today
The Pacific Fisheries Management Council will vote today at its meeting in Foster City, Calif., on whether to adopt an individual fishing quota (IFQ) system for the commercial groundfish fishery.
Groundfish is the West Coast's most valuable harvest, worth $60 million at the dock 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.
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.
However, a battle remains over how the quota will be divided among West Coast groundfish fishermen and processors.
A final vote is due in November when the council meets in San Diego.