Opinion

State, squid industry getting together

Recently, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) closed the commercial fishery for market squid Loligo (Doryteuthis) opalescens. The closure came a month earlier than the year before.

This was the fourth straight year that the squid fishery closed early; the season typically extends all year, from April 1 to March 31. The difference this year – unlike the past – was that the Department collaborated with the squid industry on day-to-day management, including the closure date.

Squid fishermen and seafood processors, working with the Department, tracked catches daily from season start in April. They determined that the season’s harvest limit of 118,000 short tons of market squid would be reached early because squid began spawning far earlier than normal  in Southern California in 2013, a fact documented by industry-sponsored squid research.

Department representatives attended the CWPA annual meeting in March 2013 and discussed ways to improve in-season tracking of squid landings to achieve the goal of attaining the total allowable catch as closely as possible without exceeding the catch limit.

This uncommon industry initiative – a precedent-setting voluntary effort to cooperatively manage the squid fishery – represents a big step forward for conservation and responsible fishing.

Beginning in 2010, the superabundance of squid available to California fishermen was the product of a decadal resource “boom” the likes of which had not been experienced since 1999. Strong La Niña conditions produced a perfect storm of enhanced ocean productivity and market squid took advantage.

The fishery responded in kind, and markets increased their packing capacity to process the abundance. The squid fishery exceeded the seasonal catch limit in both 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.

In 2012-13, in lieu of proposed “slow down” restrictions that the industry opposed, the California Wetfish Producers Association (CWPA), a nonprofit organization representing the wetfish industry – including squid – volunteered to help track landings at the end of season. CWPA received full cooperation from participating markets, which helped to validate the Department’s preliminary totals.

Department representatives attended the CWPA annual meeting in March 2013 and discussed ways to improve in-season tracking of squid landings to achieve the goal of attaining the total allowable catch as closely as possible without exceeding the catch limit.

CWPA members volunteered to submit landing receipts daily in order to help track landings virtually in real time from the season start in 2013, and the collaboration between industry and agency began.

With landings approaching the maximum cap, the fleet slowed fishing to three-day weeks, and only two days the last week, stopping one day short of the Department’s announced closure date, after projecting that another day fishing might exceed the 118,000 ton catch limit.

All major squid processors signed the CWPA agreement. The Department established a single email address to accept daily landing receipts so markets could voluntarily scan and submit via email.

In addition, it provided a website where markets could voluntarily upload scanned landing receipts, if they preferred.  Additionally, the Department agreed to create and post landing updates on CDFW’s market squid page for individual processors and fishermen to monitor fishery progress.

CWPA also tracked daily landings, receiving virtually 100 percent support from both markets and fishermen. Perhaps the most amazing phase of the initiative came after CDFW confirmed landings had reached 100,000 tons. The entire industry – markets and fleet – set up a voluntary fishing schedule to slow the catches to facilitate tracking.

With landings approaching the maximum cap, the fleet slowed fishing to three-day weeks, and only two days the last week, stopping one day short of the Department’s announced closure date, after projecting that another day fishing might exceed the 118,000 ton catch limit.

“The industry effort to voluntarily submit landings daily and slow squid fishing activity near the end was helpful to CDFW both for tracking and predicting catches,” said CDFW senior squid biologist Briana Brady.“This type of cooperative effort is an excellent example of how we can incorporate constituent involvement to achieve the Marine Life Management Act’s goal of maintaining sustainable California fisheries.

CWPA hopes this unique partnership with the Department to advance knowledge of the squid resource and help manage the squid fishery in California will serve as a model for other fisheries.


Ed’s Note:  D.B. Pleschner has 33 years of fishing industry experience and is the executive director of the non-profit California Wetfish Producers Association, whose mission is to conserve wetfish resources and promote the historic industry.  She is a former contributing editor of Pacific Fishing magazine, and manager of the California Seafood Council.  

 


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