Monterey County

Moss Landing Fishermen Say Regulations Hurting Bottom Line

27 percent decline of black cod fish since 2006, regulators say

MOSS LANDING, Calif. - Fishermen in Moss Landing said they're being slapped with too many regulations on how much black cod fish they can catch, which is hurting their bottom line. Black cod is one of the more popular and sought after fish on the coast. As a result, there's just not enough to go around and regulators are trying to prevent over-fishing.

"This is kind of our bread and butter fish," said Roger Whitney, fish buyer at Bay Fresh Seafood in Moss Landing.

Because of all the federal regulations over the last several years on the fish, many of the vessels at the Moss Landing Harbor aren't even untied.

"The price went down to where it's not worth it," said fisherman John Amaral. "We get less for the big fish now than we used to get for the small, so it cuts the overall price in half."

Amaral said he was forced to walk away two years ago and turned to crabbing.

"We were fishing like 17 miles out of the harbor. Now we have to go about 50 to 60 miles out of the harbor, so we're pretty much getting fished out," he said.

From Eureka down to Point Lopez, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration only allows 2,850 pounds of black cod to be caught in two months, something fishermen said they can do in one day. Because there's been a 27 percent decline of the fish since 2006, NOAA said the regulations are needed for the stock to sustain itself.

"As a buyer, because of government regulations, I'm doing about a third of what I was doing 20 years ago," Whitney said.

Whitney said on top of the low quotas, many of the good fishing areas are now closed because of regulations.

Sumai Zeng, wife of a fisherman, said she and her husband can't keep up with bills and raising three children also makes it difficult.

"You can hardly live by that because you have your fuel, parking slip, and your boat that always has something going wrong with it and costs to pay for it," Zeng said.

"All we're looking for is enough to make a living," Whitney said. "We don't want to go out there and fish wide open. We just want someone to be a little more personal from the National Marine Fisheries, and maybe come down and talk to us and see what our needs are."

Many of the fishermen said they are having to go all the way to Morro Bay, where the quota is four to five times more than up here.

University, state and federal scientists assess the stock every three years. Every two months fishermen receive regulations based on how much fish total was actually caught, so that amount can change. Fishermen said the inconsistency can make it difficult to make a living.

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