United States Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Non-Pollock (Amendment 80) Cooperative Program

The Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands fishing grounds are among the world’s most productive waters. Prior to catch shares, fishermen in the Bering Sea raced to maximize their catch and ended up discarding smaller, less valuable fish in pursuit of larger, more expensive fish. In the years before catch shares were launched, discard rates soared to 30%. During this time, the fishery also experienced premature season closures.

In 2008, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council implemented the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Non-Pollock (Amendment 80) Cooperative Program for groundfish species including yellowfin sole, rock sole, flathead sole, Atka mackerel, Pacific Ocean perch and Pacific cod. Under this new limited access privilege program, quota shares for these species were allocated to eligible trawl catcher-processor vessels, which are permitted to form harvesting Cooperatives. The program is considered one of the most successful catch shares implemented to date. It has ended the race to fish and enabled slower harvesting, allowing for more complete harvests of target species, reducing bycatch and discards and avoiding limiting species such as prohibited species catch (PSC) halibut and crab. New and innovative gear reduces habitat damage and bycatch by gently herding target species into trawl nets, rather than dragging heavy fishing equipment along the sea floor. The cooperative nature of the program has also created positive social pressure among participants to improve retention.