Accountability – What’s your policy?
What does “100% Federal At-Sea Monitoring” mean?
It can be hard to know where the fish on your plate really came from, or if it was caught legally. Even in fisheries with good management in place, it’s hard to know if everyone is playing by the rules. Fortunately, that’s not the case with the West Coast’s new groundfish “catch share” program. In this program each fisherman is given a portion of a scientifically established total catch to harvest. To make sure fishermen stay within their allotted catch, each and every vessel must carry a third party observer. Observers monitor 100% of fishing activities, which helps ensure that every pound of fish caught in the West Coast’s catch share program is accounted for, and that the total catch isn’t exceeded.
In other fisheries, government regulations may look very different from actual fishing practices at sea. This label indicates that – on 100% monitored vessels – regulations and practices are one and the same. We think this is something to brag about, so with our partners at Central Coast Seafood and Santa Monica Seafood in California, we’ve created the 100% Federal At-Sea Monitoring label to identify fish from the catch share program. The label is still new, but our goal is that soon all fish caught in the catch share will have it.
Below are some FAQs about the program, but please feel free to contact us at NoOverfishing@edf.org for additional information.
What is the West Coast Groundfish Catch Share Program?
The West Coast Groundfish catch share program is a recently implemented, catch share management system that affects groundfish fishing off of the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. Before this program was implemented, West Coast fishermen had individual bi-monthly catch limits and would often unintentionally exceed those limits. They would then be required to discard the excess. This management system led to very high discard rates, and poor compliance with federal regulations regarding sustainable fishing. In the groundfish catch share fishery, quota is now distributed among individual fishermen, allowing them to fish when conditions are optimal, and allows fishermen to lease their quota to others if they don’t want to fish. The catch share program reduces wasteful bycatch by counting all fish against each fisherman’s quota, creating incentives to fish as cleanly as possible and by eliminating the need to discard fish to stay within the old bi-monthly limits. (“Bycatch” refers to fish that were caught unintentionally) In 2011, the first year of the catch share’s implementation, bycatch was down from around 25% of total catch, to less than 5%. To learn more about this catch share fishery and catch shares in general, please visit:
What do at-sea observers do?
At-sea observers keep track of all fishing activities – including monitoring the deployment of fishing gear, hauling up fish, and preserving fish on board. They also identify and record the weight of fish. An observer stays with the vessel until its catch has been landed at a port, and then a catch monitor oversees the transfer of fish to a seafood processor. Between at-sea observers and catch monitors, every step in harvesting and delivery of groundfish is monitored.
To learn more about the observer program, see West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program.
How does 100% monitoring make fish more sustainable?
The federal regulations enforced by 100% monitoring help to keep fishing safe and sustainable off the West Coast. All species in this program are caught under a scientifically established quota. The observers help make sure that quota is not exceeded. This helps prevent overfishing in the future and allows stocks that were overfished in the past to rebuild.
What types of fishing gear are used in the groundfish fishery?
Groundfish in the catch share fishery are caught using trawl nets, hook-and-line gear, and traps (or “pots”).
What fish can I buy with a 100% Federal At-Sea Monitoring label, and where do I buy it?
It is our goal that all fish all fish from the groundfish catch share fishery will soon carry this label, including black cod (sablefish), Pacific whiting (hake), Pacific cod, Petrale sole, and various rockfish and flatfish. If you can’t find the fish you want with a 100% monitored label, there could be two reasons. Your grocery might not carry the 100% monitored catch of that species – feel free to ask at the fish counter. Secondly, if you’re looking for a particular type of fish or seafood, keep in mind that unless it’s caught by the groundfish catch share fishery, there may not be a 100% observed option available.
The fishery observers that trawlers are now required to have onboard take up scarce space and mean another mouth to feed, but they provide the assurance of 100% catch accountability – no fishery in the world has a higher standard.Brad Pettinger Director of the Oregon Trawl Commission
The 100% Federally observed catch share program provides consumers the highest level of confidence that their purchase was harvested in a responsible, sustainable manner. With 3rd party traceability and monitoring throughout the harvest process, integrity and accountability are preserved at the highest standards possible.Giovanni Comin President, Central Coast Seafood