Criticism that the West Coast catch shares program is underperforming came to the forefront recently at the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Sacramento.
West Coast trawlers have been operating in fear of a “disaster tow” or “lightning strike” of a choke species since the beginning of the individual quota program in 2011. And for the F/V Seeker, a disaster tow of 47,000 pounds of canary rockfish – a species at the time listed as overfished — in November 2015 will prevent it from fishing for all of 2016.
The Seeker’s misfortune is an extreme example of the program’s failure, particularly for those fishing in the non-whiting sector.
Jeff Lackey, who manages the vessel, testified to the PFMC the vessel is in a bind and already has made plans to fish in Alaska for most of 2016 and return to fishing off the West Coast in 2017. The Seeker fishes in both the non-whiting shoreside sector and in the whiting mothership sector.
The Seeker is a victim of several features of the current regulatory system in the West Coast individual quota program.