Effects of Management Tactics on Meeting Conservation Objectives for Western North American Groundfish Fisheries
There is considerable variability in the status of fish populations around the world and a poor understanding of how specific management characteristics affect populations. Overfishing is a major problem in many fisheries, but in some regions the recent tendency has been to exploit stocks at levels below their maximum sustainable yield. In Western North American groundfish fisheries, the status of individual stocks and management systems among regions are highly variable. In this paper, we show the current status of groundfish stocks from Alaska, British Columbia, and the U.S. West Coast, and quantify the influence on stock status of six management tactics often hypothesized to affect groundfish. These tactics are: the use of harvest control rules with estimated biological reference points; seasonal closures; marine reserves; bycatch constraints; individual quotas (i.e., ‘catch shares’); and gear type. Despite the high commercial value of many groundfish and consequent incentives for maintaining stocks at their most productive levels, most stocks were managed extremely conservatively, with current exploitation rates at only 40% of management targets and biomass 33% above target biomass on average. Catches rarely exceeded TACs but on occasion were far below TACs (mean catch:TAC ratio of 57%); approximately $150 million of potential landed value was foregone annually by underutilizing TACs. The use of individual quotas, marine reserves, and harvest control rules with estimated limit reference points had little overall effect on stock status. More valuable fisheries were maintained closer to management targets and were less variable over time than stocks with lower catches or ex-vessel prices. Together these results suggest there is no single effective management measure for meeting conservation objectives; if scientifically established quotas are set and enforced, a variety of means can be used to ensure that exploitation rates and biomass levels are near to or more conservative than management targets.