The Eureka focus group discussion on October 8, 2020 included eight community members from a range of commercial fisheries. Participants provided their perspectives on MPA outcomes and the health and well-being of Eureka’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 Eureka discussion, see this focus group summary. For more information on focus group participant recruitment selection criteria, see this recruitment process overview.
Participants highlighted relationships inside the port and with outside groups were strong, describing an overall sense of camaraderie among fishermen from the port and highlighting the active engagement among fishermen in fisheries policy and decision-making processes, including representation from Eureka fishermen on key external bodies. Participants also noted a key strength was the overall sustainability of the local fisheries and that the rockfish and dungeness crab fish populations were doing quite well.
Participants also noted some areas for improvement in terms of internal and external social relationships related to the port. They expressed concerns that the small size of the port fleet and declining participation by fishermen had weakened the power of the local fishing organization the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association. Participants expressed that fishing community relationships with city, county and port governments were an area for improvement. Fishermen were concerned about loss of access to sufficient resources to harvest due to management decisions such as area closures, gear restrictions and limited entry programs. They expressed concerns that management has favored the participation of large-scale, corporate operations and contributed to a decline in small-scale or artisanal fisheries. They noted increasing business operational costs and costs of permits as concerns that make fishing careers more difficult and prevent new entrants into the industry. Participants described great concern over declining port infrastructure (including a limited number of buyers, loss of key features and lack of regular maintenance and dredging) and salmon habitat and population decline. Fishermen were concerned about the potential compounding effects that new ocean developments such as offshore wind or MPA expansion could have on their industry.
Participants who were also part of the MPA implementation process recalled that it was contentious and took a toll on the fishing community who were worried about how MPAs would affect their livelihoods. Participants expressed overall dissatisfaction with MPA management, monitoring and enforcement, noting that they did not understand what the metrics were for assessing the success from the MPAs and that they did not see any monitoring activities taking place. Participants discussed compounding impacts of the many layers of closures and restrictions, in addition to MPAs, that add to the challenges of gaining income from fishing. Several participants said MPAs create compaction issues and increase fishing pressure on smaller fishing grounds, which creates negative impacts on marine resources.
“I truly think that we do have a good group of guys up here. And I think it was last year or this past year… we got a decent amount of crab guys from other areas that came up. And they had been coming to our crab meetings and they had said that they didn’t quite understand how all of us kind of sat in a room together, actually all getting along. […] We have a good group of guys that all really work together well.”
“The salmon are in trouble in their riverine and estuarine habitat, and the whole effort to put a whole lot of money into MPAs just doesn’t deal with the salmon problem, and the state has allowed [salmon] to go down. [The state was] supposed to double the salmon populations by 2000; they crashed instead. There’s a lack of will for enforcement of water law in the rivers.”
“[Regarding] community support, many folks aren’t aware of what our problems are. […] As far as the needs of the fisheries, we really have to go to the Harbor, to the Board of Supes and so on and state our case. And sometimes we have lacked the time and energy to engage in that way. But when we do and people do become aware, then they’re supportive.”
“What we find as fishermen constantly is that we know the rules better than the people that are supposed to be hired to enforce them. We call asking for help and education on these regulations and rules, especially the little nuances or gray areas […] and it constantly falls on deaf ears.”
“The MPA process was the least transparent, most divisive issue to come to our community. Proponents crow about the unified proposal, but NGOs had paid staff while fishermen went on their own time to try to preserve as much as we could save under duress. The process used up significant political capital of fishermen.”
“The infrastructure is problematic because without the infrastructure, you can’t have the fishing. And if you don’t have the fishing, you can’t have the [funding to support] infrastructure.”
Top image: Rainbow in Humboldt Bay Harbor. Credit: Rob Dumouchel