Overview of the issue
Fishing is a critical part of the region's culture and economy, with more than 1000 commercial vessels fishing in the region annually, along with substantial recreational fishing. About 200 species are typically caught in the commercial and recreational fisheries, with the bulk of the commercial landings composed of squid, rockfishes, salmon, albacore, Dover sole, sablefish, mackerel, anchovy, and sardines. The five primary gear types used are pots and traps, trawl nets, hook-and line gear, purse seines, and gill nets. Although some local stocks appear healthy, fishery managers are concerned about declining stocks and habitat threats for other species.
How is the Sanctuary involved?
MBNMS does not currently directly manage any aspect of commercial or recreational fisheries. The 1992 Federal Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) indicates that MBNMS should be involved in research on harvested species and their ecological status, and use that to advise and advocate with fishery management agencies. The FEIS did not envision a regulatory role for the MBNMS on fishing issues; if ecological problems arose, it was to consult with state and federal fishery agencies and the fishing industry for regulatory or other solutions.
Current involvement of the Sanctuary in issues related to fishing includes conducting fisheries-related research, sponsoring educational events, and occassionally commenting to other agencies on fishery issues.
The Sanctuary has an active role in the protection of the salmon and steelhead populations of the region through preservation of the watershed habitat and water quality that sustain these species during their migration and spawning activities. This includes watershed management and outreach activities with the agricultural community, cities and counties, education of the public about salmonid life cycles and habitat threats, and citizen monitoring of water quality in streams and rivers.
In 2001, the Sanctuary began working collaboratively with a subcommittee of the industry-led Community Alliance for Sustainable Fisheries to evaluate the potential of and need for marine reserves in the region that might limit fishing in certain areas. This reserve subcommittee contains representatives from a cross-section of the fishing industry, the research community and environmental organizations. The group is evaluating options for reserves using a variety of criteria including ecosystem conservation benefits, effects on sustainable fisheries, and socioeconomic impacts. The subcommittee intends to provide recommendations to the state's Marine Life Protection Act marine reserve process, as well as to the Sanctuary program and the Pacific Fisheries Management Council.