The Crescent City focus group discussion on August 6, 2020 included four community members from a range of commercial fisheries. Participants provided their perspectives on MPA outcomes and the health and well-being of Crescent City’s commercial fishing community, including environmental conditions, markets, infrastructure, and social relationships. A synthesis of these perspectives is captured below.
For the full summary of the Crescent City discussion, see this focus group summary. For more information on focus group participant recruitment selection criteria, see this recruitment process overview.
Participants from Crescent City conveyed that it has been a difficult time in the port community recently with few bright spots. They described the health of the marine resource base as a key strength and noted that Crescent City does have some representation on key management bodies which allows their perspective to be considered in management decisions. Their adjacency to the Oregon border gives them the ability to land fish in either state, increasing their market and fuel options.
Fishermen noted that the lack of a diversity of fisheries to participate in has been an ongoing challenge which was precipitated by the near loss of two key fisheries in the port: the decline of the salmon fishery due to mismanagement of the fishery and habitat degradation and the loss of the California pink shrimp due to the state not being MSC certified. They described that both internal and external social relationships were a challenge with low levels of trust and civic engagement among the fleet and a need for more support from the local port and community. Fishermen described challenges related to infrastructure, markets and the future local resources. One major lacking resource includes a processing plant in Crescent City which means products must be trucked out and landed in other ports, increasing business costs, competition with Oregon fishermen who can transport their business across the border, and concerns about changing ocean conditions and future management. The compounding of these numerous challenges has meant that it is difficult to make a living from fishing and participants noted that most fishermen from the port must have other additional jobs to support their livelihoods.
Crescent City participants expressed a neutral outcome of the ecological impact of MPAs. They believe that MPAs would not have a big change on the resource because they were placed in areas that were not all that heavily fished beforehand. However they indicated that fishermen from Oregon may be experiencing more impacts due to the placements of MPAs in grounds near their ports. The fishermen noted some impacts from the MPAs due to loss of some areas they would have fished, but they observed that livelihood impacts were not too large due to the placement of MPAs away from the port. Fishermen expressed concerns about the enforcement indicating that there was limited enforcement and it was uneven with some fishermen getting cited and others not. They indicated that management of MPAs could be improved by better communicating the goals of the MPA and monitoring results. Participants were concerned that the MPA implementation and management seemed to be a one size fits all approach that did not relate to the unique context of the North Coast.
Direct from focus group participants
“I just, I’ve been fishing, like I said, for 10, 11 years now. And since I started in the two fisheries that I’ve been in, the ocean just seemed very, very healthy as a whole [. . .] I mean the prawns seem to be up. I know the shrimpers have had good years, the [Dungeness] crabs cycle, but somewhere on the coast, you know, they’ve been [doing] well [. . .].”
“Three of us have been unloading in Oregon all year, and the rest of the fleet is unloading in Brookings now.”
“So because we don’t have the MSC certification [in California], and in the marketplace MSC is very valuable… [the buyers] don’t want to buy something if it isn’t MSC. So we’ve kind of had the leg shot out from under us because we didn’t qualify in California. So now basically the shrimp industry is out of California. It’s going to Southern Oregon now, and that includes product caught off the coast of California going into Oregon. So the Department has lost revenue from all that, and so has the port itself.”
“I mean, there’s [no processing] done around here. And that’s why there’s problems with the pricing around here. It’s so expensive for [the live buyer] to truck. You know, I mean, anything that could be made is spent on the truckers and the fuel.”
“I mean, nothing gets cheaper except the price of fish.”
“I think for our area – I’m not talking about other areas because I know other areas did not have the same kind of information gathering [during the MPA implementation process] that we did – but I think for our area in getting the response that we did end up with what were proposed, I think we ended up in a much better place than it could have been. So I think that whole process for me was pretty satisfactory.”
Top image: Commercial fishing boats tied up in Crescent City Harbor. Credit: Rachelle Fisher, Strategic Earth