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Effects of “The Blob” on profitability in the West Coast Pacific whiting fishery Public Deposited

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  • The Pacific whiting fishery is one of the most economically important fisheries on the West Coast of the United States, with around $50 million in annual landings. In general, the fishery is highly profitable. “The Blob”, or the large mass of warm water in the Northeastern Pacific Ocean, was first detected in 2013 and persisted through mid-2016. It was the “largest marine heatwave ever recorded”. The Blob has been associated with low primary productivity, an unprecedented toxic algal bloom that caused the largest-ever closure of the Dungeness crab fishery, unusual sea bird, whale, and sea lion mortality events, and warm-water species being detected in the northern California Current region. These anomalous ocean conditions had large and unexpected effect on the West Coast Pacific whiting fishery as well. This paper evaluates the socioeconomic impacts that The Blob had on the Pacific whiting fishery in 2104 and, primarily, 2015. Vessel-level profitability was between 41% and 76% lower than in 2015. We explore the drivers of this decline. Attainment of the TAC by each sector was extremely low in 2015; attainment is normally near 100% in the Pacific whiting fishery. CPUE was between 75% and 84% lower than normal in the second half of 2015, leading to higher search costs and leading to some vessels to stop fishing completely (the number of hauls by the at-sea mothership sector was 55% lower than normal in 2015). We quantify the effects of each factor on annual profitability and economic stability.
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  • Seattle, Washington, USA
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