Groundfish - Oregon’s Comeback Kid
Eat off the floor! The ocean floor that is. Groundfish live at or near the sea bottom; and include over 90 types of fish, including 64 species of rockfish, (AKA rock cod, red snapper, and sea bass), flatfish (like flounders, soles, and halibut), black cod (AKA sablefish), and lingcod.
How it Works
There are 4 gears commonly used on the Oregon Coast. The simplest way to harvest groundfish is by fishing pole. Another method is longlining with multiple baited hooks; one end of the line is anchored to the sea floor, the other end is flagged at the surface with a buoy marker. After a short soak the line is retrieved with the catch. In similar fashion, pot longlines use basket shaped traps on the ocean floor instead of hooks. Finally, groundfish can be caught by trawl, in which a net is towed through the water.
Pole & Line - Nearshore Rockfish, Lingcod
Longlines - Slope Rockfish, Halibut, Black Cod, Lingcod
Pot Longlines - Black Cod
Trawling - Rockfish, Sole, Black Cod, Lingcod, and many more
Is it Sustainable?
Management of the groundfish fishery has been one of the most intense in West Coast history. About 20 years ago the fishery was declared a federal disaster. Today the fishery has bounced back and is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, which determines if the fishery meets the standards for 1) sustainable fish stocks, 2) minimizing environmental impact on other species and habitats, and 3) effective fisheries management.
Most species are managed through scientific stock assessments. Stock status is highly variable, but today all but one of the nine previously overfished species have been restored to healthy levels. Yelloweye Rockfish is the only species that is still in jeopardy, but according to managers it is rebuilding and not experiencing overfishing.
The hook and line and pot fisheries are inherently selective due to the nature of the gear. Nets have been modified to allow some unwanted species to escape. Implementing catch shares and the resulting individual accountability of fishermen have reduced bycatch to nearly zero.
Hook & line and pot fishing have minimal habitat impacts. Trawl net impact has been greatly reduced with gear regulations and the design of lighter gear. Areas closed to commercial fishing further protect sensitive habitats and spawning grounds.
Other management actions that helped this fishery recover include the permanent retirement of half of the trawl fleet, the reduction in quotas and season, and the creation of catch shares that allocate each boat a portion of the overall catch before the season starts, to end the race for fish.