[env-trinity] Eureka Times Standard 4 30 09

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Fri May 1 19:11:29 PDT 2009

State-commissioned study looks deep into commercial fisheries

John Driscoll/The Times-Standard

Posted: 04/30/2009 01:30:18 AM PDT

Click photo to enlarge 


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The first comprehensive economic study of the state's commercial fisheries
shows an industry with promise but also in peril. 

The value of most fisheries isn't keeping up with the costs needed to
harness them, found the California Department of Fish and Game-commissioned
study released this week. The snapshot of the wide range of fisheries shows
an industry vulnerable to globalization, regulation and competition from
other food production industries. 

"It doesn't paint a very nice picture of what's going on out there," said
Humboldt State University economist Steve Hackett. 

HSU and consultant King and Associates out of Maryland prepared the report. 

The report doesn't measure trends over time, but instead focuses on 2006.
For example, limited fishing for salmon on the North Coast that year shows a
depressed fishery that would look better, perhaps, if earlier data were used
and averaged. But there have also been recent years in which there was no
salmon fishing at all. 

Dungeness crab was a moneymaker, according to the report, although it's
subject to natural, cyclical fluctuations in catch. In contrast, the 500
people in the hook-and-line fishery, Hackett said, split a meager $1 million
among them in 2006. 

The economic report is meant to inform regulators of the effects policy
changes and other factors can have on commercial fisheries. For example, it
can help quantify the costs and possible benefits of establishing marine
reserves under the Marine Life Protection Act, whose implementation is a
continuing concern for commercial fishermen. It can also help understand the
effects of wave energy projects and climate change on fisheries, Hackett

The report breaks down the elements of the various fisheries in the state by
county and region, and attaches multipliers -- an economic tool to measure
the total effects of an industry -- to the fisheries. The trawl fishery was
found to have a multiplier of nearly 1.6, which means that for every $1
million a fishery gains or loses over the status quo, $1.6 million is
generated or lost in the local economy. That includes factors like purchases
of fuel, bait, gear and other necessities. 

Eureka fisherman Dave Bitts, also president of the Pacific Coast Federation
of Fishermen's Associations, said that the report will ideally allow the
state to question actions that might harm the fishing industry. Among the
concepts being weighed that may have an effect are revisions of landing fees
to help fund Fish and Game's ongoing operations. 

"The state has to be careful," Bitts said. "If you set fees that put people
out of business, then you don't collect anything. I would hope that they'd
consider that at a minimum." 

Hackett said that globalization is one reason many fisheries are suffering
from reduced prices. Cheaper products from out of state -- and from
aquaculture operations -- often end up on diners' plates in California. Fish
also competes with other "luxury gourmet" items like high-quality beef and
free-range chicken, Hackett said. He pointed out that agriculture has an
advantage in that it can tap innovations to increase yields, but fisheries
are dependent on what the environment can produce naturally. 

Department of Fish and Game fisheries economist Terry Tillman said that
there is currently abundant information on sport fisheries from the federal
government, but data on the state's commercial fisheries was lacking. 

"There was a real vacuum for information on commercial uses," Tillman said.
"We needed to fill that gap." 

He called the study a "treasure trove of information" that can help the
agency and legislators make better decisions in the future, and allow the
department to satisfy its requirements to consider economic impacts to
businesses when addressing resource issues. 


Byron Leydecker, JcT, Chair

Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 

415 519 4810 cell

bwl3 at comcast.net

bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org



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