nities, and the development of a rural, coastal, community-based, small-boat fishery. The most striking evidence of some of these problems was the extremely short annual season for halibut, which averaged two to three days per year from 1980 to 1994 in the management areas responsible for the majority of catches (see Figure G.12).
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) defined the purpose of and need for action in the sablefish fishery (NPFMC, 1991a) as:
The problems associated with open access to fishery resources as well as other resources such as air, timber, and water have been widely discussed in the economic and environmental literature (Gordon, 1954; Hardin, 1968). With the current levels of participation and season lengths, there is an intensive race for fish. The amount of fish that a fisherman harvests is determined by how rapidly he can harvest fish before the sablefish TAC is taken and the race ends. Most of the ways in which a fisherman can increase his rate of catch impose increased current and future costs on himself and on others. The increased costs are not offset by increased landings for the fleet as a whole because the landings are constrained by the fixed gear apportionment of the sablefish TAC. The current costs may include increased harvesting and processing costs and decreased exvessel and product prices. The future costs may include higher debt service, additional fishing mortality not reflected in landings, increases in fishing accidents, and increased requests for the Council to resolve allocation problems.
When the race for fish is the allocation mechanism, additional vessels will enter the fishery and the fishing power of the vessels already in the fishery will increase until the increased fishing costs and decreased prices preclude further entry. At that point, the same level of landings could be taken with lower cost and could result in higher-valued products. This is not to say that some fishermen are not making a profit. Rather, they are making much less profit than they could if they were not racing for the sablefish.
The Council can use traditional management measures to mitigate most of the problems resulting from the race for fish, excluding the dissipation of profits. However, this amounts to treating the symptoms of the problem rather than eliminating the problem, implying that the treatment would have to be ongoing. The need for additional management measures continues with ever more restrictions on harvesting effort (closures, gear limits, etc.) and concurrent increases in fishing and management costs. The costs are expected to increase with respect to sablefish as harvesting and processing capacities for additional groundfish species exceed their TACs and additional vessels enter the sablefish fishery.
Similar language is used in relation to halibut IFQs (NPFMC, 1991b).