Bay to Bay
Morro Bay, Monterey land grant to bolster family-owned fishing operations.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
The cities of Monterey and Morro Bay, 120 miles apart on the Central Coast, have both managed to hang on to their family-run fishing operations in spite of rising fuel costs, tighter regulations and foreign competition. But leaders say it’ll take some strategic plays to keep them viable into the future.
A $135,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will kick-start a long-term plan aimed at economic, social and environmental sustainability in the Morro Bay and Monterey Bay fishing communities. The cities have pledged staff support at a matching value of $125,000.
The grant includes a $90,000 contract with San Luis Obispo-based Lisa Wise Consulting, which is tasked with outlining the future of commercial and chartered recreational fishing in the cities.
“It’s like a Russian doll,” says Henry Pontarelli, vice president at Lisa Wise. “The fish is in the center, and then there’s the boats, the human capital, where they bring the fish in, where it gets sold, and finally the consumer on the outside. We’re going to try to go as far as we can up those Russian dolls to understand what the community can do to use the resources we’ve got more efficiently.”
One catalyst for the grant: major changes to the management of the groundfish fishery, which is critical to both the Morro Bay and Monterey industries. In January 2011, the trawl sector shifted to the National Marine Fisheries Service’s catch-share program, which makes individual fishing quotas transferable. The new model was lauded for reducing bycatch, but some worry it will snuff out mom-and-pop boats as big fishing operations in Oregon and Washington buy up their quotas.
In an effort to protect the little guys, the Pacific Fishery Management Council revised the federal fisheries law to encourage community fishing associations. CFAs allow smaller fishermen to pool their catch shares, buy quotas, make collective decisions and attract grants and loans. Morro Bay already has a CFA in place, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant gives Monterey $15,000 to follow suit.
Kathy Fosmark, co-chair of the Monterey-based Alliance of Communities for Sustainable Fisheries, hopes a CFA will preserve Monterey’s family-owned fleets. “It’s really difficult for young guys to get into the fisheries unless they have an opportunity to lease quota,” she says.
Monterey Harbormaster Steve Scheiblauer says the grant will also help the city determine how to manage the half-dozen fishing businesses at the end of Commercial Wharf #2. Now that almost all of their leases have expired, he says, the city needs to decide whether to continue with month-to-month rentals.
The Fishing Community Sustainability Planning and Development plan will undergo a public process, including a Monterey City Council vote. A community kickoff meeting is planned for late September.