Posted on April 17, 2020

Species Profiles

The Nature Conservancy

Fisheries Market Analysis

for Washington’s coast as part of the community catch project

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 supported the 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 MFE team focused on highlighting groundfish species that could be leveraged as a marketing investment to produce more tangible gains for the local coastal communities, 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 becomes overfished.

Interactive profiles of the 11 prime candidate species were created to show how many commercial vessels fished each of the Washington coast species per year, which gear types were used, how the price per pound and total revenues changed annually, and what average monthly landings looked like (averaged over the last ten years). The analysis produced by the MFE 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.

The MarFishEco team 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.

Read Fisheries Market Analysis