The limited entry fixed gear stacking program for sablefish (a catch share program) was developed and implemented in a series of actions (see Section 2.0 of the 2014 program review for details). Starting in the 1980s, the fixed gear sablefish fishery was managed using seasons (the “directed” fishery eventually came to be called the “primary” fishery). In 1987, the sablefish allocation was divided between trawl and nontrawl fisheries. As the fixed gear seasons became shorter, they were often called a “derby” or “Olympic” fishery. Eventually, this annual fishery became the primary fixed gear sablefish fishery and the vast majority of the limited entry fixed gear sablefish allocation was dedicated to this fishery. Eight-five percent of the limited entry fixed gear sablefish allocation was allocated to the primary limited entry fixed-gear fishery, with the remainder going to the limited entry fixed-gear daily-trip-limit fishery.
The history leading up to this amendment is provided below:
- Amendment 6 to the groundfish fishery management plan (1994) established a license limited-entry program under which vessels needed to have longline or fishpot endorsed permits (fixed gear permits) in order to access the limited entry allocation for sablefish.
- Amendment 8 considered establishing a traditional IFQ program for the limited entry fixed-gear sablefish primary fishery. Consideration was halted when Congress imposed a moratorium on new IFQ programs in 1996.
- Amendment 9 (1996) established a fixed-gear sablefish endorsement for limited entry permits. This endorsement was required for limited-entry fixed-gear permitted vessels to access the primary fishery.
- A 1998 regulatory amendment (URL) established permit tiers for fixed-gear sablefish-endorsed vessels. Permits were assigned to one of three tiers based on catch history. The highest tier (Tier 1) received fishing opportunities in the form of cumulative limits that were 3.85 times the lowest tier (Tier 3); and the middle tier limits (Tier 2) were 1.75 times the lowest tier limits.
- Amendment 14 established the permit stacking program, which allowed up to three tier permits to be placed on a vessel and for the vessel to fish up to the combined limits for all three permits. It also authorized extension of the season (once the Congressional moratorium on catch share programs was lifted). Amendment 14 was implemented August 7, 2001, and the primary fishery ran from August 15 to October 31. Beginning in 2002, the fishery was able to run for its full intended length (April 1 through October 31). Amendment 14 Environmental Assessment, Regulatory Impact Review, and Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis
- A 2006 regulatory amendment required the submission of ownership information, fully implemented the owner-on-board requirement, and included other measures.
- A 2016 regulatory amendment implemented two Council recommendations developed during the program review completed in 2014. It liberalized the own-and-hold threshold to address limitations encountered by vessel owners who fished their vessels in both the West Coast and Alaska sablefish fisheries, and required the use of electronic reporting (electronic fish tickets) to aid in the tracking of landings.
Another important policy affecting limited entry fixed gear harvest of sablefish is the gear switching opportunity provided in the trawl catch share program starting in 2011 (see Amendment 20 for more information on the use of fixed gear in the trawl fishery).
The Council started its first review of the limited-entry fixed-gear permit stacking program (catch shares) in September 2013 and completed it in June 2014.
- Final Report: Pacific Coast Groundfish Limited Entry Fixed Gear Sablefish Permit Stacking (Catch Shares) Program Review (August 2014)
- Data Appendix to Pacific Coast Groundfish Limited Entry Fixed Gear Sablefish Permit Stacking (Catch Shares) Program Review (May 2015)
The Council began its second review of the permit stacking program in September 2020. In June 2022, the Council completed its review with adoption of the final report, including research and data needs and recommendation for program changes.