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Fishermen Voice Concern Over Charges of Overfishing
Strictly regulated local fishing industry decries
blanket charges of global overfishing and fleet overcapacity

August 17, 1998 --- Information released by the California Department of Fish and Game reveals that the number of licensed commercial fishermen in California has declined by more than 50 per cent since 1980. Only 9,843 commercial fishermen are licensed to fish in California waters in 1997-98, this is down from 20,363 licensed commercial fishermen in 1980-81. The number of commercial fishing vessels licensed in California reflects the same downward trend. In 1997-98, only 5,016 commercial vessels received licenses. This is a significant decline from the 1980-81 total of 9,229 commercial vessels. In addition, annual landings and revenues have declined significantly. Preliminary total landings for 1997 are 490,739,000 pounds with an ex-vessel value of $168,675,000. In 1980, landings totaled 1,010,527,162 pounds with an ex-vessel value of $458,323,740; with 209.8 million pounds of this total attributable to tuna with an ex-vessel value of $142.4 million.

California's commercial fishing industry is one of the most heavily regulated in the world with California's commercial family fishermen leading efforts to fish sustainably. Local fishermen work closely with the California Department of Fish & Game, the state legislature and the federal Pacific Fishery Management Council to craft regulations that will conserve Californiašs marine resources. Most of the state's fisheries have limited entry, many are also regulated by season, gear type or other means. In addition to regulations, environmental cycles, such as the recent El Niņo, influence annual catches. The natural effect of strict regulations, coupled with natural cycles, is reduced catches --- a decline that may be cited falsely as evidence of overfishing or serious environmental decline.

California's commercial industry actively supports continued scientific research and has a vested interest in the long-term conservation of local resources. Fishermen believe it is wrong to paint the California industry with a broad brush attacking global overfishing and irresponsible fisheries management. California's commercial family fishermen fish by proxy for consumers who do not have the time, luxury or interest to fish for themselves, more than 97 percent of all Californians. California's seafood consumers can be confident that they are supporting a local industry that is actively engaging in responsible management of our local fisheries.

California's Fishing Industry at a Glance*-

1980-81 9,299 20,363
1981-82 8,427 18,862
1982-83 8,173 19,176
1983-84 8,282 15,508
1984-85 7,678 14,457
1985-86 7,188 14,683
1986-87 7,049 14,881
1987-88 6,661 14,505
1988-89 6,710 15,466
1989-90 6,704 15,288
1990-91 6,621 14,565
1991-92 6,744 14,448
1992-93 6,221 12,248
1993-94 5,533 11,392
1994-95 5,577 11,308
1995-96 5,439 11,202
1996-97 5,357 10,794
1997-98 5,016 9,843
* Source: Dept. of Fish & Game

For further information and comment, please contact:

California Seafood Council
Diane Pleschner, Manager
(805) 569-8050

The California Seafood Council is a non-profit administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Its mission is to provide consumer education and information on California seafood and local coastal waters.

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