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Sport Groundfish Cap FAQs

How close are we to this year's groundfish caps?

Sport Groundfish Caps
What is a sport groundfish cap?

A sport groundfish cap is the maximum annual take allowed of a groundfish species or species group by the sport fishery. Groundfish include rockfishes, lingcod, cabezon, greenlings and others. Groundfish caps, which are set and tracked by weight, are one tool used by fishery managers to limit the take of a species or species group. The need to limit the take stems from one or more factors such as decreasing fish populations, escalating catch, uncertainty about the sustainability of a fishery, and the need to share the catch among fisheries or geographical areas.

Some groundfish sport limits are set by the federal government while others are set by the state. There are also groundfish caps (which vary by species, fishery, and geographical area) for the commercial fishery.

Limits, guidelines, targets, caps, optimal yields... what is the difference between all these terms?

To keep things simple, the term "cap" is often used as an umbrella term to cover harvest targets, harvest guidelines and other types of annual limits, each of which is defined differently, as shown in the following table.

Term Origin Description Species Relevant to Oregon Anglers
Optimal yield (OY) Federal Amount of fish that provides the greatest overall benefit to the nation and provides for rebuilding of overfished fisheries All groundfish species
Harvest guideline (HG) Federal An objective based on the OY (see above) that includes landings (fish that are kept) and discard mortality

Canary rockfish

Yelloweye rockfish

Harvest target Federal Each state's share of the Oregon-Washington regional sport harvest guideline (see above)

Canary rockfish

Yelloweye rockfish

Landing Cap Oregon Total landings (fish that are kept) allowed in the Oregon ocean boat fishery in a calendar year

Black rockfish & blue rockfish (combined)

Cabezon

Greenlings (combined)

Other nearshore rockfish (combined)

Harvest Cap Oregon Total harvest allowed, including landings (fish that are kept) and discard mortality, in the Oregon sport fishery in a calendar year Black rockfish

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Which groundfish species have a sport cap?

In 2011 the following groundfish species or species groups have a sport cap in Oregon:

  • black rockfish
  • black rockfish and blue rockfish (combined)
  • cabezon
  • canary rockfish
  • greenlings (combined)
  • other nearshore rockfish (combined)
  • yelloweye rockfish

(Sport harvest limits or quotas are also usually set for salmon and Pacific halibut.)

Does Oregon share its caps with Washington or California?

Separate sport harvest guidelines were established beginning in 2005 so that excessive sport harvest in one state would not result in a sport closure for the entire coast.

What are the current sport groundfish caps for Oregon, and how do they compare to previous years?

Sport Groundfish Caps for Oregon by Year (Metric Tons)
Species or Species Group
2011
2010
2009
 2007-2008
2006
2005
2004
Black rockfish

440.8

440.8

440.8
318.0
324.5
332.0
342.0
Black rockfish & blue rockfish (combined)
481.8
481.8
481.8
359.0
365.0
372.5
382.5
Cabezon
15.8
15.8
15.8
15.8
15.8
15.8
15.8
Canary rockfish
16.0
16.0
16.0
6.6
6.8
6.8
6.8
Greenlings (combined)
5.2
5.2
5.2
5.2
5.2
5.2
5.2
Lingcod
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
175.0
151.0
130.0
Other nearshore rockfish (combined)
13.6
13.6
13.6
11.3
15.3 /c
11.4
11.4
Widow rockfish
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
1.4
2.4 /a
1.4
Yelloweye rockfish
tbd
2.9 /d
2.5
3.3
3.2
4.0 /b
3.2
     
/a
  Increased from 1.4 mt in June 2005
/b
  Increased from 3.2 mt by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) in September 2005
/c
  The "other nearshore rockfish" group includes brown rockfish, China rockfish, copper rockfish, grass rockfish and quillback rockfish. In 2006 the group also included tiger rockfish and vermilion rockfish, so the sport cap was increased that year to 15.3 mt to accommodate the two additional species.
/d   The initial federal harvest guideline for yelloweye rockfish for 2010 was 2.4 mt. In June it was reduced to 2.3 mt in response to the outcome of an NRDC lawsuit. In September the Council increased the limit to 2.9 mt for a variety of reasons.

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What does the "other nearshore rockfish" group include?

The cap for "other nearshore rockfish" (combined) covers brown rockfish, China rockfish, copper rockfish, grass rockfish and quillback rockfish.

In 2006 the group also included tiger rockfish and vermilion rockfish in order to be consistent with the commercial definition of this group at the time. However, because tiger rockfish and vermilion rockfish are part of the federal shelf rockfish management group (not the federal nearshore rockfish group), these two species were removed from Oregon's cap for "other nearshore rockfish" after 2006.

Who sets sport caps for groundfish?

Groundfish limits are set by either the federal government or by the state.

Federal harvest limits for groundfish are developed on the West Coast through the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) based on a stock assessment of each species. Species managed under federal limits and caught in Oregon's sport fishery include: black rockfish, yelloweye rockfish, and canary rockfish.

State caps for groundfish are set by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. Species managed under state caps include: cabezon, greenlings (combined), black rockfish and blue rockfish (combined), and other nearshore rockfish (combined). More about the history of state caps can be found in ODFW's 2003 Nearshore Groundfish Fishery Harvest Cap Report (pdf, 25 pages).

Can a sport groundfish cap be changed inseason?

In general, sport groundfish caps cannot be changed inseason, but there are some exceptions.

1) Yelloweye rockfish and canary rockfish are managed with harvest guidelines and harvest targets. For each of these species, Oregon and Washington share a regional harvest guideline, and each state's share of the guideline is its harvest target. If Oregon or Washington anticipates reaching its harvest target and the other state does not, the shares can be redistributed between the two states by mutual agreement. Without mutual agreement, however, the harvest target cannot be changed inseason. In any case, the harvest guideline (that is, the combined Oregon-Washington limit) is not to be exceeded, unless authorized by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC).

2) If PFMC anticipates that a portion of a harvest guideline will go unused, then PFMC may transfer some of the unused portion to a fishery that may otherwise need to close due to attainment of a limit. Oregon anglers benefited from this process in 2005 when PFMC increased Oregon’s yelloweye rockfish sport limit inseason.

What counts toward a sport groundfish cap?

For species with a federal limit, the following components count toward the cap:

  • estimated catch retained by all anglers
  • estimated mortality of released fish

Groundfish species with a federal limit in 2008 include black rockfish, canary rockfish and yelloweye rockfish. The release mortality component explains why there is a federal limit for species that cannot be legally retained, that is, yelloweye rockfish and canary rockfish.

For species and species groups with a state limit, a single component counts toward the cap:

• estimated catch retained by ocean boat anglers

Groundfish species with a state limit in 2008 include black rockfish and blue rockfish (combined), other nearshore rockfish (combined), cabezon, and greenlings (combined).

Catch retained by shore anglers and estuary anglers is not counted toward state limits. Currently, the shore and estuary fisheries are not being sampled due to a lack in funding. Landings in these fisheries are managed with daily bag limits and minimum length limits.

What happens when a sport groundfish cap is expected to be reached before the end of the season?

Depending on how quickly a cap is expected to be reached, an inseason regulation may be put into place to slow or stop harvest of that species.

Inseason regulations can vary widely in scope, depending on the species involved and depending on whether the goal is to slow the harvest or to stop it completely. Examples of inseason regulation changes include:

  • bag limit reductions
  • non-retention restrictions
  • closures seaward or shoreward of a particular depth
  • area closures
  • length restrictions
  • gear restrictions

How do anglers know when an inseason change has been made to sport regulations?

Inseason changes to fishing regulations will be posted on the ODFW website and announced to the news media before the change goes into effect. In addition, flyers will be posted at the docks of most coastal ports. Anglers may also contact an ODFW office.

What steps does ODFW take to minimize the risk of inseason groundfish sport closures?

  • The daily bag limit for marine fish is adjusted preseason based on the caps, results from recent seasons, and catch projections for the upcoming year.
  • ODFW monitors the sport groundfish fishery from month to month.
  • When possible, ODFW considers taking inseason action that will slow down a fishery (such as a reduced bag limit or non-retention rule) before the need arises to stop a fishery altogether.
  • ODFW meets with the Sportfish Advisory Committee (SAC) to review harvest estimates and any potential need to slow or stop harvest through inseason regulations. SAC is a group of 15 Oregon participants representing marine anglers, angler organizations, charter vessels, and ports that provides information and advice to ODFW.
  • A buffer is set aside for the shore and estuary fisheries so that these fisheries may remain open even if the ocean boat fishery needs to be closed due to attainment of a sport groundfish cap.
  • ODFW provides public access to sport groundfish harvest information through its website.

Why are there caps on species you cannot keep, like canary rockfish and yelloweye rockfish?

Canary rockfish and yelloweye rockfish cannot legally be retained by anglers but are sometimes caught incidentally while anglers fish for other species. Although canary rockfish and yelloweye rockfish are released, not all of them can be expected to survive because they acquire injury and stress when caught and released. The estimated mortality of released fish is counted toward the cap of species with a federal limit (such as canary rockfish, yelloweye rockfish and black rockfish). Different mortality rates are used for different species and different depths. For example, canary rockfish that are released closer to shore have a higher survival rate than those released in deeper water offshore.

Why must I release canary rockfish and yelloweye rockfish when I've caught them accidentally and they seem to be dead or nearly so? Isn't that wasteful?

The federal limits for canary rockfish and yelloweye rockfish are very, very low. The stocks of these species are depleted and will take a long time to rebuild. If retention of these species were allowed, then some anglers would target them, the caps would be reached early in the season, and closures would possibly be required to prevent any further angling impacts. The non-retention rule eliminates the incentive to target these species. While those fish that are accidentally caught and released may indeed die due to injury and stress, the overall impact to the stocks is estimated to be less than if retention were allowed.

How are the sport groundfish caps tracked?

Oregon tracks its sport groundfish effort and catch with two surveys: the Ocean Recreational Boat Survey (ORBS) covers ocean boats, and the Shore and Estuary Boat Survey (SEBS) covers anglers in estuary boats and on shore.

Oregon Recreational Boat Survey

Effort estimates are made individually for each port and then added together for a statewide estimate. Effort estimates for ocean boats are made using one of several methods, depending largely on the logistics of the port and the boat type (private, guide or charter).

Charter effort is determined primarily by contacting each charter office to find out the number of trips made each day. Effort by private boats, guide boats, and charter boats not associated with a local booking office are determined primarily by counting boats as they cross the bar and enter the ocean. Boat counts are conducted at least four days each week (i.e., on two weekdays plus Saturday and Sunday) during the sampling season. On days when an effort count is not made for a port, an expansion formula is used to estimate effort.

ORBS does not sample every port every day of the year because doing so is cost prohibitive. Instead, a sampling program designed to generate statistically valid estimates guides the timing, location and frequency of sampling.

Harvest estimates are based on dockside interviews during which samplers determine the number of anglers per boat, catch by species, and fish size. Harvest estimates are calculated individually for each port and then added together for a statewide estimate.

Harvest estimates are expressed in both numbers of fish and in metric tons. The latter is calculated by multiplying the average weight of each species by the estimated number of that species. Species for which retention is prohibited (yelloweye rockfish and canary rockfish) cannot be measured or weighed at the docks because anglers do not bring them in. Consequently, the average size of these species is calculated from data collected at sea from specimens that are caught incidentally and then released.

Shore and Estuary Boat Survey

Effort estimates for shore anglers and estuary boat anglers are made using a telephone survey of Oregon angling license holders.

Harvest estimates for the shore and estuary fisheries are based on field interviews during which samplers determine catch by species and fish size. The average number of fish per angler (derived from field sampling) is multiplied by the estimated number of angler trips (derived from the telephone survey) to generate a harvest estimate by species for each two-month period, or wave.

Unlike the ocean boat fishery, the shore and estuary fisheries are not sampled every year. This is because (1) the harvest of most species from shore and estuary fisheries is relatively small compared to the ocean boat fishery, and (2) it is costly to sample shore and estuaries in a manner that would provide timely and accurate estimates. During periods in which shore and estuaries are not sampled, the harvest for this component of the sport groundfish fishery is determined by using a five-year average (1998-2002, for example).

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