After one of the West Coast’s most valuable commercial fisheries was declared an economic disaster in 2000, California and other Pacific states saw more boats being sold and more fishermen looking for work.
But federal statistics show the first signs of a comeback among these so-called groundfish fishermen — those who ply deep waters for dozens of different species that fall under the “groundfish” label, such as sablefish, rockfish and thornyheads.
Conservation efforts and a 2-year-old contentious quota system called “catch shares” appear to be helping, and fishermen who were losing money in the once-lucrative fishery are in the black again, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data.
Some fishermen initially skeptical of the stricter government oversight say they’re now seeing the long-term benefits of this approach — and hard-hit fishing towns are seeing signs of recovery.
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