The Pacific Groundfish Fishery is a multi-species fishery composed of 82 species of soles, flounders, rockfish, lingcod, whiting, and more.  Trawl gear accounts for the greatest portion of the landings and the fishery is managed by the Federal Government through a combination of the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) and the National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS). This is a Limited Entry fishery with Federal fishing permits.

The management of the fishery is based upon annual quotas that may not be exceeded.  To avoid running out of fish before the end of the year, “trip limits” have been imposed since the early 1980’s.  Trip limits are an opportunity to catch and land a certain amount of fish for a given period of time.  Landings in excess of trip limits are prohibited and any amount of fish not caught and landed may not be carried forward to the next period.  Trip limits by their very nature are wasteful since any fish caught in excess of the limit must be discarded at sea.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, stock assessments for several species of groundfish concluded that a few of the species in the complex were overfished and at low levels of abundance.  To restore these stocks to more abundant levels, restrictions were imposed on fishing in certain areas and access to abundant stocks was also restricted.  These new restriction were in the form of very low trip limits and these new limits resulted in additional discards and wastage.



Recognizing this new problem, the trawl industry approached the PFMC and requested that the Council begin developing an Individual Fisherman’s Quota (IFQ) system for trawl caught groundfish.  An IFQ system basically takes the annual quota for which all fishermen are fishing and divides it up among all of the fishermen with permits to fish.  Each fisherman then has his total amount of fish for the year.  The trip limits are removed and the fisherman may go fishing when he chooses to fish for the fish for which he has individual quota.  These shares of quota are transferable between fishermen, so if one fisherman needs more quota of any one species he may obtain additional quota from another fisherman.

It is expected that this system of management will greatly reduce if not eliminate totally the wastage that is occurring today and provide fishermen greater flexibility to catch and deliver fish when the weather is safer and is more desirable in the market place.



Early in the development of the IFQ program a new and serious problem developed.  Fish companies led by the largest fish company on the West Coast, Pacific Seafoods, demanded that when quota shares were initially allocated to fishermen, that they be included in this allocation of harvesting shares.  Their initial request was that 50% of all fish be set aside and allocated to fish processors in proportion to the purchases made by fish companies.

This fish would come directly out of the amount of fish that would be allocated to fishermen and be controlled by a very small number of fish companies.  It has been estimated that four companies purchase over 90% of the entire trawl caught groundfish, and that one company may account for around 65% of the purchases.

An allocation such as this request has not occurred any where in the world.  This would be setting a bad precedent for future fishery management.



If these few fish companies succeed in obtaining this allocation then all fishermen would be assigned an amount of fish which is less than they currently have access to today.  The larger fish companies also own fishing boats and would likely have this fish caught by a small number of boats.  This will hurt the larger number of privately owned boats.  Many of these fishing businesses will be force to sell out and go out of business.

Smaller fish processing companies will likely not receive quota.  New companies just beginning business will be at a disadvantage to the larger companies.  Business that wholesale and distribute groundfish will have fewer companies from which to purchase their groundfish.



The PFMC will be meeting in early June to select their preferred alternatives in the draft Environmental Impact Statement.  These choices will receive special attention in the treatment in the Final EIS which will be approved in November 2008.

Please write the PFMC and urge them to NOT allocate quota shares to fish companies.  Please attend the PFMC meeting in June and testify before the Council and express opposition to allocating shares to processors.



The PFMC will meet June 8 – 13, 2008 at the Crown Plaza Hotel, 1221 Chess Dr., Foster City, California.  The topic of this IFQ program (referred to as Amendment 20: Trawl Rationalization on the agenda) will be taken-up by the Council on the morning of Wednesday, June 11 and continue to the following day if needed.  A complete agenda may soon be found at www.pcouncil.org or at www.trawl.org. A schedlule for the week long meeting is located here.


Letters to the Council must be received by May 21st to be included in the material sent to each Council member prior to the meeting and by June 3rd to be distributed on the first day of their meeting.  Letters should be address as follows:

Mr. Donald K. Hansen, Chairman
Pacific Fishery Management Council
7700 NE Ambassador Place, Suite 101
Portland, Oregon 97220-1384

Letters may be mailed, Faxed (503) 820-2299, or sent via e-mail (pfmc.comments@noaa.gov)



May 8, 2008

Mr. Donald K. Hansen
Pacific Fishery Management Council
7700 NE Ambassador Place, Suite 101
Portland, Oregon 97220-1384


Dear Chairman Hansen and members of the Pacific Fishery Management Council,

I am a fish buyer/processor from … and I am writing to ask you to oppose initial allocation of quota to processors in the IFQ program for the west coast trawl fleet. If quota is allocated to processors based on processing history, it will have a disastrous effect on small processors/buyers up and down the coast.

The way the alternatives are currently structured only a handful of the very largest processors would be eligible to receive any allocation. Such an allocation system will enable that small number of large processors to become even larger, and will make it easier for them to continue to squeeze out small processors/buyers. Large processors will become the beneficiaries of an even larger market advantage eliminating the potential for small buyers/processors to partner with fishermen on innovative marketing arrangements.

There is absolutely no justification for a giveaway of public trust resources to a handful of very large processing companies that will create such devastating impacts for other processors/buyers who are not entitled to receive a piece of the allocation pie. Please oppose initial allocation of quota to processors.



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