We asked study participants representing California’s Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel (CPFV/charter boat) community to share perceptions of their communities’ well-being. Participants across the state rated and discussed the well-being of their CPFV communities related to economic, social, and environmental factors.
Read the summary of this key finding below. For the full version of study findings, read the report – Establishing a Statewide Baseline and Long-Term MPA Monitoring Program for Commercial and Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel Fisheries in the State of California
Focus group participants reported positive perceptions about CPFV fishing community well-being in relation to job satisfaction, social relationships among CPFV community members, and present marine resource health. They reported neutral or negative perceptions about CPFV community members’ relationships with external groups, allocation of resources, and future marine resource health.
Figure 1. Bar chart showing statewide averages of CPFV focus group participants’ perspectives about well-being outcomes, ordered from highest to lowest.
We conducted five regional focus group conversations with 20 members of California’s CPFV fleet. See here for listing of CPFV regions and ports.
Focus group participants were asked to rate a series of questions about the well-being of their CPFV fishing communities and about outcomes from the MPA network on a five-point scale from positive to negative. In addition to this quantitative assessment, the participants also shared oral commentary about various aspects of their community’s well-being.
Due to logistics, impacts from COVID-19 and nearby wildfires, and/or lack of trust or interest in the project, we were not able to convene CPFV focus groups in two regions of California (Monterey Bay Region and Los Angeles-Long Beach Region).
CPFV fishing community perceptions of economic well-being
Overall, focus group participants reported challenges related to the economic well-being of their CPFV communities. Both income from fishing and allocation of resources were ranked low, with participants expressing challenges making a living from CPFV fishing operations alone.
Perspectives on Income from Fishing
On average, CPFV participants across California rated income from fishing on the insufficient side of the scale. Many participants discussed the need for additional sources of income to support their livelihoods. Several participants highlighted factors such as increased costs of business while revenue was staying the same, and mentioned challenges associated with high costs of living. Participants communicated that seasonal closures for target fisheries and the declining health of some fish populations (i.e., salmon) were negatively affecting their ability to earn a living. Several participants also shared that it is easier for CPFV operators in nearby urban or affluent areas to make a living off their CPFV operations, due to their proximity to more potential clients.
Perspectives on Allocation of Resources
Across the state, CPFV focus group participants reported that allocation of resources for the CPFV industry was somewhat insufficient, with the average response indicating that allocation of resources was lacking. Participants noted Dungeness crab, rockfish, and lingcod as species where allocations were insufficient.
Study participants discussed tension between CPFV owners/operators and commercial fishermen due to competition for resource allocation, and described how this directly impacts their economic well-being. Many CPFV participants believed resources and habitats are more negatively impacted by some commercial sectors when compared to CPFV operations. They felt that resource allocations are too restrictive relative to the CPFV fleet’s limited impact on the resources.
CPFV fishing community perceptions of social well-being
CPFV participants across the state reported high levels of job satisfaction and relatively strong internal social relationships. However, on average, they indicated that social relationships with external entities such as government, managers, NGOs, and other fishing sectors could use improvement.
Perspectives on Job Satisfaction
On average, job satisfaction was the highest rated well-being question, and CPFV participants across the state reported a strong sense of fulfillment from working on the ocean, due to having autonomy over their businesses and schedules, as well as working with clientele. Most participants shared that these positives of the job outweigh many of the stressors and challenges.
Perspectives on Internal Relationships
Some focus group participants identified strong relationships and collaboration within their ports, where CPFV owners/operators work toward common goals, have good communication among the fleet, are responsive and supportive to requests for help by other CPFV owners/operators, and engage in healthy competition. Other participants said CPFV owners and operators in their port do not work well together, and explained that CPFV operators are their own bosses who are not used to working collaboratively and cooperatively with others.
Perspectives on External Relationships
Participants’ perspectives regarding relationships between CPFV owners/operators and external groups were wide ranging, though on average participants reported the strength of relationships with external groups as lacking, especially compared to relationships within their port communities.
Study participants from multiple ports shared challenges with low engagement and representation in policy processes by the CPFV industry at large. Several participants lamented that the CPFV industry generally does not have a voice in the management of their own fisheries, and believed they could better inform management and industry decisions if they were more organized, and if managers meaningfully considered their input.
Focus group participants highlighted some strengths in relationships with external groups, and described several instances of productive engagement with managers, environmental NGOs, and their local communities. One participant noted that the advocacy work of the Sportfishing Association of California (SAC) was especially helpful in terms of helping to advance the CPFV industry’s priorities.
CPFV fishing community perceptions of environmental well-being
On average, CPFV operators rated the present health of marine resources as somewhat positive. Participants highlighted some bright spots, such as the recovery of rockfish populations, for example. In conjunction with this, many participants expressed worries about the future state of marine resources due to concerns about long-term management, changing ocean conditions, and future drought conditions.
Reported bright spots
Several study participants believed rockfish populations have rebounded from historic low abundance, which they attributed to Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCAs). A few study members also attributed fluctuations in marine resource health to natural ocean cycles.
Study participants from northern California ports reported vastly reduced salmon abundance and shared concerns that riverine habitat loss, drought, and poor enforcement of water quality law were all negatively affecting salmon population health. Some participants expressed concerns about declining kelp forests, which they highlighted as important nursery habitat for target species.
When asked about future marine resource health, many focus group participants reported they were primarily concerned about ineffective fisheries management, though they also discussed worries about other contributing factors that might negatively affect future marine resource health, including changing ocean conditions and low river flows.