NOAA Fisheries eases restrictions for West Coast groundfish

Published final rule increases catch limits for rockfish, flatfish, roundfish and sablefish.

STATEWIDE — The West Coast groundfish fisheries received some good news in early December, as federal officials increased catch limits and eased fishing restrictions on groundfish (Pacific Ocean perch), flatfish (petrale sole), roundfish (Pacific cod) and sablefish.

NOAA’s West Coast Fisheries announced the changes as part of a final rule published in December. The changes are expected to have a positive trickle down effect on commercial and recreational groundfish fisheries, according to NOAA staff.

“West Coast communities will see an increase of about 900 jobs and $60 million in income in 2019, according to an economic analysis of the new harvest rule. Recreational anglers will take about 219,000 more fishing trips, most of them in southern California with some in Oregon and Washington,” NOAA staff stated on the agency’s West Coast Fisheries website.

The commercial and recreational groundfish fisheries are considered one of the most valuable fisheries on the West Coast, according to NOAA. The commercial groundfish fishery, for example, is responsible for $140 million of annual revenue.

Several groundfish species, such as canary rockfish, bocaccio, darkblotched rockfish and Pacific Ocean pearch, rebounded from endangered status and are now fully recovered, according to NOAA’s West Coast Fisheries. The rebuilding of each species, according to NOAA, was achieved “through careful science-based management and collaboration among fishermen, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, tribes, West Coast states and NOAA Fisheries.”

NOAA’s West Coast Fisheries anticipates species such as cowcod and yelloweye rockfish are on pace to be fully rebuilt.

The West Coast groundfish fishery collapsed in the late 1990s and, according to NOAA, “led to severe fishing cutbacks so these stocks could rebuild, greatly curtailing a mainstay of the coastal economy.”

”The groundfish fleet had to limit fishing even for the other more abundant groundfish stocks to avoid unintentional catch of the overfished stocks,” NOAA staff stated.

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