Massachusetts groundfish fisheries. (Photo: USGS)
NOAA finds that fishers are doing better financially
Wednesday, October 26, 2011, 23:30 (GMT + 9)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) this week released the 2010 Final Report on the Performance of the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery. It elaborates on earlier release of catch and value data for the 2010 groundfish season and adds new information on fishery performance, leasing of quota, costs and jobs.
“The report concludes that when all fishing across the region is analyzed, fishermen as a whole are generally doing marginally better financially, even though they are spending less time fishing and catching fewer fish than previous years,” stated NOAA Administrator Dr Jane Lubchenco.
NOAA is sharing the findings at the New England Fishery Management Council’s “lessons learned” workshop, which is expected to provide important recommendations to help fishers and their communities thrive despite low quotas.
NOAA has been working quickly to raise catch levels based on new fish stock science and allowed fishing in some previously closed areas. NOAA and the Council are also considering rolling over unused quota to the next fishing year.
Lubchenco announced this month that NOAA would fund at-sea monitoring through the 2012 fishing year.
The report and related economic information shows the fishery cannot yet assume these costs, as if sector vessels paid for monitoring in 2010, trip costs as a per cent of revenue would rise by 38-42 per cent for boats in the 30-50ft size, for example.
Further, the report indicates that groundfish revenues slipped in 2010 but overall revenues to groundfish vessels rose. The industry has got more value from fewer fish landed and less fishing effort.
Estimates of the average vessel owner’s net and gross revenues jumped for groundfish vessels due largely to higher fish prices. Overall vessel trip costs climbed for many vessels year-on-year.
The trend of consolidation of revenues on fewer vessels continued in 2010. In 2007-9, 20 per cent of vessels took about 60 per cent of gross revenues and just over 68 per cent of groundfish gross revenues.
Last year, 20 per cent of vessels captured just over 65 per cent of gross revenues and nearly 80 per cent of groundfish gross revenues. As this trend may continue, NOAA urged the Council to reconsider current limits on accumulation of catch shares.
The Council is thus working on an amendment to lower the likelihood that groundfish permit holders will control excessive shares.
“We are releasing this study today for stakeholders to help us identify ways to improve the management of the fishery,” said Eric Schwaab, NOAA assistant administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service. “NOAA will use feedback from the workshop to develop a series of regulatory and non-regulatory reforms that we will bring to the Council for review and action at its November meeting.”
Work is being done in Massachusetts to complete two other finer-scale economic analyses, whose information will offer a fuller picture of the economic situation of the industry in that state, Lubchenco added.
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