An important, though overfished groundfish stock has been declared restored, the Pacific Fishery Management Council announced Monday.
Pacific Ocean perch has been an overfished stock since the mid 1960s when they were targeted by foreign fishing fleets, said John DeVore, groundfish staff officer for the Pacific Fishery Management Council. This declaration will mainly be felt by the commercial trawl fishery north of Cape Mendocino, he said.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council declared two other groundfish stocks, boccaccio and dark blotched rockfish, rebuilt earlier this year, according to a council press release. The Pacific Ocean perch and the dark blotched rockfish are found on the slope between the outer edge of the continental shelf and the open ocean, DeVore said.
“Having both those slope rockfish stocks rebuilt will benefit the trawl fishery,” he said, adding commercial trawl fishermen felt the constraints the most when the stocks were declared overfished.
The Pacific Ocean perch assessment was developed by National Marine Fishery Service scientists, according to the press release. The assessment received final endorsement by the Council Scientific and Statistical Committee.
Following the 1976 Magnuson-Stevens Act, which ended foreign fishing within 200 miles of the U.S. Coast, the Pacific fishery Management Council and the National Marine fishery Service implemented federal trip limits to discourage targeting of Pacific Ocean perch in 1979. Rebuilding plans for the groundfish were adopted in 2000 and 2003.
“That’s when we started closing off areas where those stocks occurred and putting in very stringent quotas for the trawl fishery in this case,” DeVore said. “We did gear restrictions and everything else to try to rebuild them, and those actions really helped rebuild the stocks. But then, quite honestly, it was also more favorable environmental conditions in the last 10 years. The two together are what led to this outcome.”
In addition to the limits imposed on the Pacific Ocean perch, the groundfish fleet also had to limit fishing for more abundant species to avoid the unintentional catch of overfished stocks, according to the council’s press release.
Since then, eight groundfish stocks have been successfully rebuilt, including Pacific whiting, boccaccio, dark blotched rockfish, lingcod, canary rockfish, widow rockfish, petrale sole and Pacific Ocean perch.
Rebuilding plans are still in effect for cowcod and yelloweye rockfish. According to the Pacific fishery Management council, cowcod stocks are projected to be rebuilt by 2019 and yelloweye rockfish could be rebuilt by 2027.
The Pacific Fishery Management Council states the improvement in the cowcode and yelloweye stocks as well as the rebuilding of the eight others will lead to increased fishing opportunities in 2019. The council is scheduled to make its final decision on 2019 and 2020 the ground fisheries in June 2018, according to the press release.
Since the rockfish market has been so restrictive, consumers have been purchasing other fish such as imported tilapia, swai and other species, DeVore said.