Off the West Coast of the United States, more than sixty species of groundfish swim slowly through the kelp forests and rocky reefs. Often sold as “Pacific red snapper,” a rockfish can live more than 100 years and may not spawn until it’s over thirty. This life history makes them vulnerable to overfishing, which jeopardizes both fish populations and fishing jobs. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s grant to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) aims to avoid this scenario by strengthening existing fishing communities and helping support new networks in California.
In 2011, the Pacific groundfish fishery adopted a “catch share” system that sets a quota for the amount of fish that can be taken from an area, reducing the threat of overfishing. With support from the Foundation, TNC is working with coastal communities in California and Washington to create “risk pools,” a cooperative approach in which fishermen pool their individual fish quotas as an insurance mechanism, in case any one fisherman accidentally goes over his limit. The “risk pools” ensure that more fishermen are able to fish for longer in the season without being shut down for breaking the seasonal fishing limit. The grant also supports electronic monitoring to help these collective fishing arrangements.
This partnership helps keep fisheries in business, protects marine resources, and sustains a future for the fishing industry. It aims to be emulated in other communities across the country.