Half Moon Bay
The Princeton – Half Moon Bay focus group discussion on November 19, 2020 included seven community members from a range of commercial fisheries. Participants provided their perspectives on MPA outcomes and the health and well-being of the Princeton – Half Moon Bay 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 Princeton – Half Moon Bay discussion, see this focus group summary. For more information on focus group participant recruitment selection criteria, see this recruitment process overview.
Participants from the Princeton-Half Moon Bay fishing community described key strengths related to the health of marine resources and markets for local catch. They describe a strong abundance and diversity of marine resources to target in the port but noted that many of the species like crab, shrimp and squid have cycles with alternating periods of low and high abundance. The fishing community described good market choices for local catch with many options for buyers and the ability to shop around for the highest prices. The option for direct sales in the port has provided another pathway to sell fish, increasing the overall resilience of their markets.
Focus group participants expressed concerns related to management of the marine resource. Concerns included how current management practices will affect the long-term health of the resources, specifically noting the lack of real-time or in-season management practices, the decrease in salmon hatcheries and overall concerns about the current and future health of the salmon fishery. Participants described many barriers to access and entrance into the local fisheries including high permit costs, in season restrictions, area closures and infrastructure challenges. The fishing community noted that these challenges have had cascading effects on income, labor, job satisfaction in the port causing some fishermen to need to seek additional sources of income and making it difficult to recruit and retain new entrants into the local fishing industry. Community members also described challenges related to social relationships. Internally, they describe weak social ties and a fractured feeling amongst the fishermen which has made it difficult to engage as a united front within management and policy processes. They also stated that engagement with external entities and management processes was low, leading to weak relationships with external groups, highlighting a need to improve relationships with external groups like environmental NGOs and to gain more support from local government and management agencies.
Perceptions of MPAs among Princeton-Half Moon Bay participants were generally fairly negative. Participants were neutral about ecological outcomes of the MPAs stating either that they hadn’t observed many impacts positive or negative on marine resource populations due to MPA implementation, or that they did not have enough information to gauge the overall effects. Participants believed that MPAs had negative impacts on the livelihoods of fishermen from the port. Key impacts from MPAs discussed included: losing access to important and/or productive fishing grounds, increasing the distance that fishermen need to travel to reach fishing grounds (leading to increased costs and safety concerns) and increasing crowding outside MPA boundaries. Overall fishermen were dissatisfied with MPA management, monitoring and enforcement. The described what they perceived as poor communication of management goals and monitoring outcomes, as well as an overall perception that management decisions are being driven by politics while the needs of fishermen were not prioritized. Participants also felt that enforcement of the MPAs is unfair and expressed concerns about the enforcement methods being utilized.
Direct from focus group participants
“We all know about cycles. And I think crab is looking like it could be on a downward cycle at the moment. And that’s just the way the ocean always is. I mean, we’ve seen a number of cycles over the years. Groundfish seems to be pretty healthy. Looking at the ocean itself, it seems healthy to me. [Name redacted] experiences the ups and downs of squid, and I guess it can be attributed to cycles. But, again, I don’t really know why it doesn’t feel healthier to me.”
“I feel like the markets overall have been pretty good. The majority of the fishermen in our port I would say are salmon and crab. Compared to some other ports, we always seem to have the option to get a good price for our crab. It’s been quite a few years since anybody’s got put on limits more than perhaps short-term and [during] a couple of real big starts for crab. Salmon I feel there’s enough different buyers that the guys [are] willing to work and call around and they’re able to get a good, decent price.”
“I feel overall, our port’s pretty fractured as fishermen. A lot of times issues come up, there’s a lot of disagreement and different opinions between the fishermen and it seems we have kind of been butting heads.”
“Getting along with the other groups is more difficult when you’re coming in with different avenues of attack.”
“For the first time in my career, I decided to diversify into other businesses just to give me a safety net. This is the first year I’ve ever felt like I’d like to have that safety net given the status of crab, the Newsom order [Assembly Bill 3030], the inconsistencies of salmon and the inconsistent access to groundfish [. . .] Right now, what I’m doing is mitigating current loss [because] we’re all not crabbing. So if you can get another job and figure some other line of work out to make money, I think there’s a fair amount of guys that would want to do that. It’s also a safety net if they decide to really pull the plug on this thing with all of our money on the line and all that we’ve invested and all of our time and crab pots and family: [you] need to have a safety net.[…] As it gets cut down, it gets scarier and scarier for all of us.”
“I heard that [our] ice machine is out of commission and is not going to have any more ice for six to eight weeks. […] But in our port, if you wanted to fish right now, you are working off of the last 20 tons that’s in the hopper and there are no plans to fix it [soon]. And when I asked the guy at the fuel dock why they would do that, he said because nobody’s really going to be fishing anyways. […] Right now, I could go make a black cod trip, but I have to drive to San Francisco to get ice and come all the way back and pick up an observer and take them out fishing and all that. It just seems like an unnecessary piece of the puzzle.”
“My overall feeling is these [MPAs] are more of a political tool than a real management procedure, and it just seems more political with detrimental effects, really, than a secure way to protect the fisheries, so everybody’s just kind of dissatisfied with them.”
“I just think that enforcement can look at a play-by-play thing: they see some guys that don’t look like they know what they’re talking about, I think that’s a time for education, the time for communicating and seeing what their intention was instead of just saying ‘hey, it’s a taxpayer that has money to pay for this ticket.’ When you go to court, you wind up paying a very significant fine. It’s not like running a red light ticket – they actually threaten you with jail, things like that. [. . .] Having a little push and shove when it comes to enforcement on things like that would be nice. More information for the public and more benefit of the doubt.”