By Jennifer Henion
Triplicate staff writer
As fishermen in Del Norte County brace for another blow to their industry from federal regulators, they are also coming up with suggestions for how regulators can help them.
Richard Young, fisherman and owner of the vessel "City of Eureka" docked in Crescent City Harbor, has drafted a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer with his studied solution to the problem of balancing fish conservation and fishermen survival.
He is suggesting Congress use already appropriated millions for the buyback of commercial fishing permits and fishing rights to reduce the number of boats fishing depleted fish stocks.
On Tuesday, the Crescent City Harbor Board signed onto Young's letter along with 15 others.
"It's clear what the problem is. There are too many boats chasing too few fish," said Young to the Harbor District.
To help bring back the fish populations, the Pacific Fisheries Management Council this year significantly decreased and, in some cases, forbade catches of groundfish, including several species of cod.
"Quotas have been drastically reduced and large areas of the West Coast have been closed to fishing. Fishing and fishing communities are suffering," Young said.
He said the West Coast groundfish fishery was declared a disaster in 2000 at which time drastic cuts were imposed on catch limits.
Now the fisheries council wants to reduce catches again by another 50 percent.
After some research, Young found that millions of dollars have already been set aside by the federal government for a guaranteed-loan program, but found that the program itself has not yet been passed by the U.S. Congress.
"So here's a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer asking for that money," Young said.
In addition to reducing the fleet, Young along with many harbor councils up-and-down the coast is suggesting that individual quotas for individual fishermen be used instead of sweeping limits for all boats of a certain size.
He said that kind of quota system is a better tool for allowing fish populations to grow and keep growing than the old system, which ultimately drove the fishery to the brink.
"We've waited far too long for tools that will help us manage our fisheries for both biological sustainability and economic viability," Young said.