Rapid comebacks mean greater fishing opportunities, more sustainable seafood for U.S. markets
EDF’s Pacific team is pleased to share the news that stocks of both Bocaccio and Darkblotched rockfish have been declared rebuilt on the West Coast, well ahead of schedule. Commercial fishermen – who have worked for years to avoid catching the species – will soon be much freer to harvest them and to supply consumers with these beautiful, delicious, sustainable rockfish.
Previously declared overfished, Bocaccio and Darkblotched are among several species that have been under strict rebuilding plans in recent years. As such, they’ve been among the “constraining species” that fishermen have intentionally avoided catching since 2011, when the trawl fishery’s quota-based catch share management system was implemented. (Fishermen sought to avoid them prior to 2011 also, but under less effective management systems.)
Partly due to the fact that Bocaccio and Darkblotched commingle with many more abundant stocks, the rebuilding plans have required not just cooperation, but real sacrifice from fishermen.
A record of remarkable progress
According to NOAA: “(West Coast) Lingcod was declared rebuilt in 2005, and Widow rockfish in 2012. Both Petrale sole and Canary rockfish were declared rebuilt in 2015. Rebuilding plans remain in place for three remaining overfished species: Cowcod, Pacific Ocean perch, and Yelloweye rockfish. New assessments for Pacific Ocean perch and Yelloweye rockfish will be reviewed this summer and may be adopted in September. Cowcod is expected to be rebuilt by 2019.”
As NOAA said in their announcement, “(Rebuilding) plans required sharp reductions in commercial and recreational fisheries targeting groundfish, which included widespread fishing closures through the establishment of Rockfish Conservation Areas off the West Coast and other measures. Since 2003, managing overfished species through area closures such as the Rockfish Conservation Areas has helped to reduce fishing impacts and rebuild overfished groundfish species. In addition, the groundfish fleet has had to limit fishing for other more abundant species to avoid unintentional catch of the overfished stocks.”
EDF has worked with fishermen for years during this rebuilding process, as they’ve adapted to the new management structure and taken the painful steps necessary to avoid constraining species. They deserve a great deal of the credit for this remarkable conservation win. As Barry Thom, Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region put it, “By working together, we’ve brought Bocaccio and Darkblotched rockfish back to where they will again be part of a sustainable West Coast groundfish fishery that creates renewed opportunity for the fishing fleet, as well as more options for seafood consumers.”
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