I work on the back deck of the drag boat, Home Brew, moored in Warrenton. ("Say no to exclusive access to fishing," The Daily Astorian, Aug. 29.)
Over the last four years, the West Coast drag fleet has seen a reduction of 40 percent of capacity. This buy-back program of the fleet was meant to reduce the number of vessels (rationalize), so the remaining vessels would be able to market more fish per vessel.
Out of every delivery, 5 percent was to be taken out to pay back the buying out of the rationalized vessels. However, a promised increase of allowable catch for the remaining drag boats never materialized. Add to that, record fuel prices, gear restrictions, ever increasing bureaucracy, and 75 percent of fishable grounds now closed to dragging due to extreme environmental lawsuits, and you've got a recipe for disaster.
Bill Hogarth, head of the National Marine Fisheries Service, envisions a fishing industry that is more in charge of their own destinies. He sees Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs) as the best way to reduce wasteful fishing (by-catch), too much bureaucracy, and allow fishermen more decision making when it comes to safety and market decisions.
West Coast draggers, including locals, have developed an Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) program very similar to the very successful halibut and black cod IFQ system in Alaska, which would allow drag boats to trade quota back and forth between vessels on a given trip. One-hundred percent observer coverage would assure that short-duration tows would be done eliminating large amounts of overages.
Bycatch that is caught would be brought into port and traded to boats with quota still remaining on that particular species. This elimination of by-catch would be a revolutionary change in fishing policy. Conservation of individual, and threatened, species would be enhanced, and the overall resource could be sustained for generations to come.
PATRICK M. DUGAN