Geoff Bettencourt is a fourth-generation Point Pillar Harbor commercial fisherman. Geoff began fishing salmon with his grandfather and father before he was tall enough to see over the boat’s railing. In high school, he continued to fish for salmon and crab and trawling for rockfish, halibut, and sole. Geoff and his Dad bought the Moriah Lee in 1997 to continue fishing for Dungeness crab, groundfish, and salmon. Although Geoff started out heavily invested in the bottom trawl fishery, he has taken the business in a new direction by embracing sustainable fishing and undergoing a major gear shift to environmentally-friendly traps for black cod. Geoff realizes he has many years ahead of him and the only way to both protect the resource and secure his family’s future is to combine that old school honor & wisdom with a progressive modern approach to the future of fishing.
Steve Fitz is a second generation fisherman and Owner/operator of the fishing vessel, Mr. Morgan, out of Pillar Point Harbor. Steve grew up in Massachusetts, where he watched his father and uncle return from Georges Bank with abundant loads of cod. Steve followed in their footsteps, working summers and winter breaks during college to help finance his tuition and earn a degree in business. After 25 years and multiple fisheries, the Mr. Morgan has become his passion. Today, Mr. Morgan is the only vessel left in the United States using Scottish seines, a method that is considered to be environmentally-friendly and harvests high-quality sand dabs, sole, halibut, and rockfish for the local markets.
Lisa (Bettencourt) Damrosch spent her childhood in a commercial fishing family where the men had worked the ocean from Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay for generations. After taking a break from a successful sales and marketing career to raise her son, the advent of Catch Shares management created an opportunity for Lisa to join her brother and father in the family business. Lisa began by handling quota management and operating as a First Receiver. In 2012 she created the Bettencourt Fisheries arm of the business through which she has been able to successfully market her brother's catch. In 2013, at the request of her brother and fellow groundfisherman Steve Fitz, Lisa facilitated the creation of the Half Moon Bay Groundfish Marketing Association for which she is now the Executive Director.
Established in 2013, HMBGMA is a non-profit fisherman’s cooperative marketing association based in Half Moon Bay, California. Through implementation and marketing of industry-leading fisheries co-management and on-the-water sustainability initiatives, HMBGMA is bringing high quality, locally harvested wild seafood to consumers, protecting the health and productivity of fish stocks and habitat, and helping to stabilize fishery activity and business in Half Moon Bay, California. Our fishermen all participate in the highly regulated West Coast Groundfish Trawl Catch Share Program and in the California Groundfish Collective (CGC).
We make up a coalition of organized groups of fishermen from Morro Bay, Half Moon Bay, and Fort Bragg who are collaborating with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to develop real and effective solutions to local fishery management challenges. This collaboration is known as the California Groundfish Collective (CGC). The fishermen in the CGC work with scientists from TNC to share information and create geographically specific fishing plans that enable us to target healthy, abundant stocks of fish while avoiding sensitive habitat and vulnerable overfished species.
HMBGMA fishermen harvest groundfish including: Sablefish or Black Cod, Sole (Dover, Petrale, etc.), Thornyhead (Longspine and Shortspine), Rockfish (Chilipepper, Bank, etc.), and others. Gear types include Scottish Seine and pots.
COLLAPSE OF THE GROUNDFISH FISHERY
Half Moon Bay is a small coastal town in San Mateo County, California, Just south of San Francisco. The community has a long and vibrant history of supporting local commercial fishing off the Central Coast.
Over the last three decades, the West Coast ground fish fishery came to rely on bottom trawling as its primary means to catch fish. Millions of pounds were landed annually in Half Moon Bay until the 1990’s, when a sharp decline began. In 2001 the fishery was declared a disaster.
In January 2011, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) imposed an Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) catch share management system for the West Coast Groundfish Fishery. Under a catch share management structure, fishery access rights are allocated in the form of quota share permits for a portion of the total allowable catch assigned to a species. Transferability enables fishermen, communities, cooperatives, or enterprises to buy, sell or lease their quota share permits. Traditional catch share programs generally improve the condition of marine stocks and habitats but they are also very expensive to participate in and likely to result in consolidation of the fishery as market economics drive transferrable quota to large-scale fishing operations in larger ports. Communities that rely on small-scale fishing fleets stand to lose significant income from fishing activities that fund community infrastructure, jobs, tourism, and local culture.
Read more about catch share: catchshareindicators.org