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    Squid Fishing Fight Not 'David Vs Goliath' But More Like 'Boy Who Cried Wolf'
    By Michael Conroy | May 4th 2013 12:00 PM | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Michael

    Mike Conroy, Esq. is president of West Coast Fisheries Consultants and represents a number of squid brail-boat fishermen in California....

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    Is a David and Goliath battle brewing in commercial squid fishery, with larger purse seiners robbing "scoop" fishermen of their livelihoods, sometimes illegally?

    That is what Virginia Hennessey wrote in the Monterey Herald. Hearing claims of three squid brail (smaller boat) fishermen, one might think that the larger seine vessel squid fishermen are illegally catching all of the allowable quota.

    But that’s just not the case. In fact, not only is there an abundance of squid in California’s waters – more than enough to go around – most of the brail-boat fishing fleet have no problem with the current management structure.

    That’s because the squid resource is booming and most fishermen have been catching plenty of squid!

    Yet a few brail-boat fishermen claim they want to level the playing field by seeking a separate quota for brail fishermen.

    If these fishermen are losing out to seiners under the current system it’s due to choices they have made, not because of how the squid fishery is managed.

    The reality is that seiners and brail boats have the same access to the squid fishery.

    The past three seasons produced a super abundance of market squid, a phenomenon that occurs only a few years in a decade. Colder waters and higher nutrient levels have led to a population explosion. The fishery reached its 118,000 quota in December during the 2010 season and November for 2011 and 2012.

    Those who claimed an inability to fish likely chose not to do so. The fact that some choose to participate in other fisheries should not be grounds to redefine the start of the squid fishery, or establish a separate quota for brail fishermen who want to have their cake and eat it too.

    Many brail fishery participants, who chose to fish when the resource was available – earlier in the year than usual – were rewarded with their highest grossing year during this past squid season. This contradicts the claim that the larger seiners have pulled in the quota of 118,000 tons before the brail season becomes ripe.

    Additionally, claims about the increasing number of permits are inaccurate. The capacity goal, defined in the Fishery Management Plan, was 55. Initial permit issuance, plus appeals, established transferable vessels permits at 77, with an assumption the capacity goal would be achieved over time by attrition and permit stacking. In 2012, the number of transferable vessel permits had declined to 71, 66 of which made landings.

    The claim that the larger seiner boats are catching squid over their legal limit is also incorrect. Three types of squid vessels are permitted: (1) light boats, (2) brail boats, and (3) seine vessels.

    A permitted light boat cannot use brail gear. Only brail and vessel permitted boats are allowed to deliver squid. Both brail and seine vessel permits have a gross tonnage endorsement. Strict rules exist regarding transferring permits to replacement vessels.

    The replacement vessel must be of “comparable capacity” to the original permitted vessel. Comparable capacity is achieved when the replacement vessel’s gross tonnage does not exceed that of the originally permitted vessel by more than 10 percent.

    Gross tonnage is determined by multiplying the length, breadth and depth of by 0.0067. If a replacement vessel’s gross tonnage exceeds comparable capacity, the fisherman must buy and stack additional permit(s).

    California uses the same factors when determining the gross tonnage for admeasured vessels. One recent claim implies that the capacity of replacement vessels grossly exceeds the tonnage endorsement of the originally permitted vessel. This is not the case, according to Joe Cappuccio of Del Mar Seafoods in Moss Landing, who states that “an 80-ton permit is an 80-ton permit, no matter what you are fishing on.”

    Squid processors have become more efficient in their operations. Peak daily catch rates have increased from 1,000 tons a day to over 4,000 tons, primarily because of increased efficiency and expansion of operations and freezer space. Markets no longer need to implement trip limits on their vessels due to lack of capacity to process the daily catch.

    Frustrations felt by a few are not indicative of the fishery as a whole.