West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program

In 2011, NOAA Fisheries implemented a new management system for the West Coast Groundfish Trawl Fishery. The new framework, known as a catch shares system, transforms how groundfish are harvested off the West Coast. The trawl catch share program, also called the trawl rationalization program, consists of an Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) program for the shorebased trawl fleet and cooperative programs for the at-sea mothership and catcher/processor trawl fleets.

Under this system, fishermen in the trawl fleet no longer depend on a single, fleet-wide quota to determine how many fish can be sustainably harvested. This traditional model encouraged fishermen to compete with each other to catch as many fish as possible before the fleet's allocation was met and the fishery closed. The new catch shares system divides the total amount of an overall allowable catch or quota into shares controlled by individual fishermen or groups of fishermen (cooperatives). These shares can be harvested at the fishermen's discretion, ideally more efficiently and at more profitable marketing times.

Catch shares are designed to benefit both fish and fishermen. The program holds fishermen accountable for their deliberate catch as well as bycatch. This means that all fish harvested are deducted from the fisherman's personal quota or the pooled quota (cooperatives), including fish that are discarded.

Recent Announcements & Publications

May 16, 2014:  NOAA Fisheries announces corrections to the shorebased trawl allocations for several IFQ species, resulting in small increases to available quota for those species, effective May 16, 2014.

May 1, 2014: U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of the Inspector General issues a report on NOAA catch share programs

Feb. 20, 2014:  NOAA Fisheries announces availability of clarifications and an annual report for Cost Recovery.

Feb. 19, 2014:  NOAA Fisheries announces the publication of a proposed rule in the Federal Register to revise chafing gear regulations for midwater trawl gear; public comment period closed April 18, 2014

Feb. 6, 2014:  NOAA Fisheries announces the publication of a proposed rule in the Federal Register to revise regulations pertaining to catch monitors and certified observers; public comment period closed March 21, 2014

Nov. 15, 2013:  NOAA Fisheries announces the publication of a final rule, the Program Improvement and Enhancement Rule (PIE 2), in the Federal Register that proposes revisions to the Pacific coast groundfish trawl rationalization program, a catch share program, and includes clarifications of regulations that affect the limited entry trawl and limited entry fixed gear sectors managed under the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (see 78 FR 68764). Removal of the end of year ban on quota pound transfers between vessel accounts will be effective December 15, 2013. The remainder of the rule will be effective January 1, 2014.