Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Limited Entry Bottom Trawl

Sector Description

The limited entry (LE) groundfish bottom trawl sector off the U.S. West Coast operates from the U.S./Canadian border to Morro Bay, California. Each vessel that participates in this sector must have a federal groundfish permit with a trawl endorsement. Permits associated with factory processors that target Pacific hake are observed by the At-Sea Hake Observer Program (ASHOP). Beginning in 2011, the LE trawl sector became a catch share program with 100% observer coverage.

Groundfish bottom trawl vessels range in size from 35 to 95 feet, with an average length of 65 feet. Vessels fish throughout the year in a wide range of depths and deliver catch to shore-side processors. Bottom trawlers often target species assemblages, which can result in diverse catches. A single groundfish bottom trawl tow often includes 15-20 species. Individual fish sizes and weights can vary widely within each catch. Groundfish trawl vessels retain the portion of their catch that is marketable and permitted to be landed. The portion of the catch which is prohibited by regulations or not marketable is discarded at-sea.

Regulations for the groundfish bottom trawl sector are set by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC). Active management of the sector began in the early 1980’s with the establishment of harvest guidelines for several managed species and trip limits for widow rockfish, the Sebastes complex, and sablefish. The objective of trip limits has been to slow the pace of landings to maintain year-round fishing, processing, and marketing opportunities. Since the 1980’s, regulations have evolved to further separate individual groundfish species for management purposes and led to the use of cumulative two-month trip limits for many species (PFMC 2008). Cumulative trip limits are a specified weight of fish that can be landed by a fishing vessel during a particular time period. Since 2011, trip limits in this sector are only used for non-quota share species under the catch share program.

Selection Process

Prior to 2011, limited entry groundfish bottom trawl permits were selected for observation using stratified random sampling. First, the WCGOP determined the amount of time (based on available resources) it would take to observe the entire fleet; this is termed the selection cycle. Selection cycles varied in length due to changing priorities and observer resources. Most often the length of a selection cycle was eight, ten or twelve months.

Permits were excluded from selection due to inactivity based on the following criteria:

Permits which were determined to be inactive were removed from all selection cycles. If a vessel became active during the selection cycle, they were required to notify the WCGOP and were subsequently added to the selection list.

WCGOP sampling strata consists of groups of ports along the U.S. West Coast. Vessels with LE groundfish trawl permits were assigned to a port group based upon the location of the previous year’s landings. Within each port group, the vessels were randomly selected for coverage during a two-month period, which coincided with a two-month cumulative trip limit period. After the entire fleet was selected, a new selection cycle began. Once a vessel was selected, it was only observed once within each selection cycle. The selection process was designed to produce a logistically feasible sampling plan with observations throughout the entire geographic range.

Coverage/Waivers

In some cases, vessels whose permits were selected could not be observed. These vessels were often granted waivers—a temporary exemption from observer coverage. There are three types of waivers that the WCGOP grants, depending on the length of the waiver: trip waivers, coverage period waivers, and selection cycle waivers. Waivers for trips were issued based on observer availability or short-term safety issues. Some vessels received coverage period waivers, which allowed a vessel to fish all trips during a two-month period without an observer. Coverage period waivers were given for a variety of reasons including observer availability and vessel safety. If a coverage period waiver was provided, the vessel was added to the selection list for the next two-month period. For instance, if a vessel was given a coverage period waiver for January 1 through February 28, that vessel was automatically selected for observer coverage for the period March 1 through April 30. Vessels continued to be added in subsequent selection lists until either an observer covered them or until the selection cycle ended. A selection cycle waiver allowed the vessel to fish without an observer during all trips taken during the selection cycle. Selection cycle waivers were given when a vessel had a serious safety concern that could not be easily remedied.

Limited Entry Bottom Trawl Reporting

Year of data Year of release Description Format
2010 2011 Data from bottom trawl sector Excel
2009-2010 Oct-10 Data Report and Summary Analyses of the U.S. West Coast Limited Entry Groundfish Bottom Trawl Fishery full report (pdf)
2008-2009 Oct-09 Data Report and Summary Analyses of the U.S. West Coast Limited Entry Groundfish Bottom Trawl Fishery full report (pdf)
2007-2008 Oct-08 Data Report and Summary Analyses of the West Coast Limited Entry Groundfish Bottom Trawl Fishery full report (pdf)
2006-2007 Sep-07 West Coast Groundfish Observer Program Data Report and Summary Analyses of Limited-Entry Trawl Permits full report (pdf)
2005-2006 Sep-06 West Coast Groundfish Observer Program Data Report and Summary Analyses of Limited-Entry Trawl Permits full report
2004-2005 Sep-05 West Coast Groundfish Observer Program Data Report and Summary Analyses full report
2003-2004 Jan-05 West Coast Groundfish Observer Program Data Report and Summary Analyses full report
2001-2003 Jan-04 West Coast Groundfish Observer Program Data Report and Summary Analyses full report
2001-2002 Jan-03 West Coast Groundfish Observer Program Initial Data Report and Summary Analyses full report