Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Fishing for answers

A survey of Pacific Northwest charter vessel owners reveals their biggest concerns Contributed by Al Brown November 2016

Google “things to do in the Pacific Northwest” and sailing, fishing, or whale watching are almost guaranteed to show up. These iconic activities bring millions of dollars each year to the economies of Washington and Oregon, whose coasts are home to The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site hundreds of charter businesses that are vital to local economies.

In 2014, the Northwest Fisheries Science Center conducted a survey to assess the ways that such businesses respond to changes to the environment, the economy, and management regulations imposed by federal and state governments.

“The last survey was taken in 2007,” said Jerry Leonard, an NWFSC economist and author of a Technical Memorandum about the survey. “Many changes have occurred since then. We saw the salmon fishery close in 2008. Fuel costs have gone up by almost 50%. We needed to know how these businesses were doing.”

With assistance from the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, Leonard was able to survey more than 150 charter vessel owners throughout the region about their charter activities in 2012.

While the majority earned most of their revenue from salmon, groundfish, halibut, tuna, and other types of recreational fishing, many also engaged in such activities as scuba diving, whale watching, and even burials at sea. Of all of these activities, salmon fishing was the most popular, indicating The next link/button will exit from NWFSC web site how important this species is to the economy of the Pacific Northwest.

A number of questions in the survey focused on the challenges charter owners face from various sources. The top three responses, by a more than 10% margin, were fuel costs, fishing regulations, and profitability.

When asked to elaborate on the types of regulations they found to cause challenges for their businesses, the survey respondents indicated in-season regulation changes to be the most problematic, followed closely by seasonal closures.

“Regulations may change mid-season for a number of reasons, most often in response to changing ocean conditions,” Leonard explained. “In 2015, for example, a harmful algal bloom closed clam and crab fisheries along the entire west coast. Such unexpected events can be difficult for charter businesses to adapt to.”

Charter owners were also asked what they thought about the future for their business. Sadly, more than half believed that the economic outlook was either somewhat or very unfavorable.

“This survey will help us better understand the economic impacts of charter fishing on the Washington and Oregon economies. This in turn will help us provide better management advice to governing agencies,” Leonard said.

Find out more about the survey and coastal charter vessels in Washington and Oregon Charter Vessel Survey: Methodology and Results.