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From Collapse to Sustainability: West Coast Groundfish Are Back

October 12, 2023

Learn about the decades-long effort to get West Coast groundfish back on our plates.

Petrale sole placed on a wooden counter next to a kitchen knife and fruit and floral garnish A Petrale sole flatfish. Photo courtesy of Positively Groundfish.

About 20 years ago, the West Coast groundfish fishery—which includes many popular species like sablefish, flounders, skates, and sanddabs—collapsed due to overfishing. The collapse triggered the closure of hundreds of thousands of square miles of ocean and a financial disaster for West Coast fishermen.

In response, the fishing community, scientists, and regulators came together to launch a recovery effort that has largely been a success. Today, many stocks have been rebuilt and are fished sustainably.

Our guest on this new episode is Jana Hennig, a Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant recipient and the executive director of the non-profit Positively Groundfish. Jana shares some of the background on overfishing and depletion of groundfish that led to the collapse and closure of the West Coast fishery 20 years ago. She also talks about how fishermen and scientists came together to help reopen the fishery sustainably. 

Now that the fishery is rebuilt, why aren't consumers clamoring for more West Coast groundfish? Jana gives us insight into multiple factors—including capacity and infrastructure issues, market demand, and high costs to industry—that keep West Coast groundfish from showing up on our plates, and what her organization is doing to increase demand for these fish.

Last updated by Office of Communications on May 09, 2024