Posted on April 17, 2020

Fisheries Market Analysis

The Nature Conservancy

Fisheries Market Analysis

MarFishEco were contracted by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) from September 2019 to October 2020 to undertake a review and market analysis of the current commercial fisheries along Washington’s Pacific coast and the Juan de Fuca Strait, USA. The objective of the review and analysis was to identify undervalued groundfish species that could sustainably provide additional revenues to Washington’s seafood industry.

Our work was required to support TNC Community Catch project (funded by a NOAA Saltonstall-Kennedy), which focuses on working with fisheries to develop sustainable fishing gear, create markets for sustainably caught fish, and building partnerships and market pipelines to build a source of local sustainable seafood. The project discussed the continued uncertainty surrounding many in Washington’s fishing fleet, following recent fluctuations in landings and low dock prices for local fishermen. It also evaluated best ways to support local coastal communities that were experiencing limited access to fresh and affordable fish alongside the amplified uncertainties surrounding potential future climatic anomalies outside of local fishermen’s control.

The team at MarFishEco focused on highlighting groundfish species that could be leveraged as a marketing investment to produce more tangible gains for the local coastline, outside of the high profile and high demand species such as salmon, oysters, and Dungeness crab.

The suitability of a species for increased catch and marketing investment was determined by analysing the biological feasibility of catching more fish, whilst also developing an understanding of the past market history of the potential candidate species. Our team used the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Groundfish Expanded Mortality Multiyear (GEMM) dataset and a series of analyses to identify 27 undervalued groundfish species in Washington’s waters. Our experts compared the history of landings for each of these species with their respective overfishing limit (OFL) (the volume of fish landed that would be classified as overfishing, and therefore unsustainable) to understand how much each of the 27 species is already fished and how much can occur before it is overfished. The two types of analysis produced by the team, highlighted which species, in theory, would make good candidates for Washington’s fishermen to invest more effort in, assuming local market opportunities were present.

To understand the broader bottlenecks limiting increased landings, market entry, local processing, and consumption across all the candidate species, in-depth Key Informant (KI) interviews of fisheries stakeholders across the main fishing ports were carried out. The information gathered informed our generalised conclusions about what will likely hold Washington’s fishermen back from making better use of 11 prime candidate species identified.

Interactive species profiles

Interactive profiles that illustrate fishing mortality time series, catch histories in relation to overfishing limits and species-to-species comparison of the sustainability of the 11 prime candidate species were created. These help users see which species would perform best under increasing fishing effort and which should be avoided based on levels of fishing activity that may be close to sustainable limits. These visualisations help highlight which species truly have market potential if they were exploited at higher rates.


The team at MarFishEco are excited for TNC to share our analysis with Washington’s Pacific and Juan de Fuca coastal communities. We are hopeful that this information will connect local fishermen, restaurants, educational institutes, and grocers in building interest in new fishery market streams and opportunities. We are especially keen for this report to support local and indigenous fishermen by increasing job pay and opportunities via different mechanisms, community access to fresh fish at a lower cost, and overall, a more localised fisheries food system.

As of early 2021, the MarFishEco team has been working on a business plan to support this work that can act as a template for small-scale fishers in Washington. The plan sets out financial requirements of how to sell direct to consumers to provide increased opportunities for profit and the use of under-valued species.