In fairness, it is necessary to let the public know the viewpoint of the Morro Bay Community Quota Fund (MBCQF) in relation to the conflict that arose with the business South Bay Wild. The Quota Fund’s Bylaws explain how the corporation was set up. Interested citizens should review them online at www.morrobaycommunityquotafund.org as they are too lengthy to include here, however a portion of the area of contention is listed here.
The Morro Bay Community Quota Fund is a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation doing business in Morro Bay to handle available quota pounds of groundfish for local fishermen and in the process, safeguard the fishery environment.
One of the contentious issues regarding the South Bay Wild and the MBCQF had to do with overfished species. Under Section C-Objectives of the Corporation in the Bylaws is the following:
“Corporation will use its best efforts to manage Overfished Species (OFS) quota share and OFS annual Quota Pounds (QP) which will be allocated to a regional Risk Pool known as the California Groundfish Collective (Risk Pool) or similar entity for the purpose of reducing OFS interactions, creating a more efficient Fishery, and maximizing the economic and conservation performance of the Fishery through adaptive management. Should no Risk Pool arrangements or entities exist at any time in the future, Corporation will manage OFS in a manner consistent with the intent of the current Risk Pool as it existed at the time of incorporation.”
The local fishery that MBCQF was created to benefit included Morro Bay and Port San Luis with groundfish fishermen operating from Point Sur to Point Conception, but within designated allowable areas (not in Marine Protected Areas).
South Bay Wild was the only trawl fishing boat operating out of Morro Bay. There is another fisherman from Morro Bay taking groundfish but with hook and line, not a trawl net. South Bay Wild’s problem was the fact that they had to belong to more than one entity to adequately fish. They asked for a bylaw change so they could obtain OFS quota without belonging to the Risk Pool, but was denied.
Dwayne Oberhoff, of the Quota Fund explained that the board rejected the request because there is a possible legal aspect regarding changing bylaws and they were advised by a lawyer not to do this. They also felt that changing bylaws for one individual left them open to having to address requests for further bylaw changes from other fishermen as they come into this fishery.
South Bay wild decided to leave Morro Bay and issued this statement to their customers:
“We at South Bay Wild are sad to announce that due to circumstances somewhat beyond our control, and certainly contrary to our principles, access to the quota that we need to go fishing has become unreliable, and the stress and complication of involvement in the organizations required to gain access to the quota is overwhelming. After five years of participation in these organizations we no longer believe they are a good use of time, energy, and resources, and we feel it would be detrimental to our fishery should we legitimize them with our continued support. As a result, we are finding it necessary to go back to Oregon in the Spring where we plan to participate in the pink shrimp fishery which has fewer costs, is less complicated and is more aligned with our beliefs in how fisheries should be managed. We will miss the Central Coast and are thankful for all the support we have received from our customers, supporters, lenders and friends.”
The Quota Fund can sell overfished quota to other fishermen from other areas such as Half Moon Bay and Fort Bragg. The question is whether their interest is primarily to support local fishermen in Morro Bay.
The MBCQF states they “believe that community ownership and management of fishing quotas are essential to a resilient port community and thriving local fleet.”
They further state that they were created to “secure local access to the groundfish fishery,” and to help “maintain an active fleet.”
MBCQF is interested in ensuring long-term access to these fishery assets such as permits and quota for boats now anchored in Morro Bay and that this should result in “associated benefits to the local economy.”
The MBCQF bylaws require efforts to reduce overfished species interactions by fishermen working with them and they meet this objective by working with the California Groundfish Collective. They are satisfied with this arrangement “because of the Collective’s year-after-year proven results.”
There may not be a right or wrong to these issues, however fishermen in general have been struggling with the many regulations on their industry for years. On the other hand, environmental concerns cannot be overlooked. In future articles, I will explore more of the MBCQF, the California Groundfish Collective, The Nature Conservancy, and the fishing community of Morro Bay.
Neither this article nor the article about the South Bay Wild are this writer’s opinions or the opinions of this paper but are published here as features so that the community can be informed.