Building off our analysis in New England, Mexico and Indonesia, we sought to understand the value chain dynamics impacting ground fish harvesters in California.
Unlike many of the fisheries we’ve reviewed, the West Coast groundfish fishery in California is a management success. Of the 90 plus species managed by the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan, the management council currently considers only five overfished, and classifies each of these species as “rebuilding.” In 2014, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified 13 trawl-caught species and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program rated 21 trawl caught species “Green, Best Choice” or “Yellow, Good Alternative.” This is a significant change from 2000 when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared the fishery a national disaster.
Despite this significant ecological progress, fishing and conservation communities continue to share concern about the long-term economic sustainability of the fishery, particularly as the fishermen continue to bear management costs that have increased over the past 5 years. Our assessment identified a number of operational inefficiencies in the value chain that are hurdles to increasing the market value of seafood from this fishery; as long as the product is undervalued, the fisherman will struggle economically.