Formation of the Fort Bragg Groundfish Conservation Trust

fbg-conservationtrustFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Fort Bragg, CA – The Fort Bragg Groundfish Conservation Trust is pleased to announce the acquisition of 4,349,544 million pounds of quota in commercial groundfish trawl fishing quota from The Nature Conservancy. This acquisition secures local access to the fishery for the Fort Bragg community.

The Fort Bragg Groundfish Conservation Trust is a public benefit non-profit organization that owns and leases fishing rights to local fishermen.

It also administers programs to supplement existing access, prevent the loss of traditional fishing rights, provide incentives for sustainable practices, mitigate community impacts related to the transition to a catch share or quota based system.

“Having reliable access to affordable quota in the IFQ Groundfish Fishery is vital to the success of small fishing business in Fort Bragg,” says Bernie Norvell, owner of the F/V Donna J.  “Most of the boats in Noyo received a small allocation of quota after the Trawl Rationalization program (Catch Shares) implemented in 2011, and it hasn’t been enough to run a fishing operation for more than three or four months, let alone year round.”

The groundfish fishery spans the entire West Coast.  It is a multi-species fishery comprised of fish species like sablefish, petrale sole, lingcod, arrowtooth, sand dabs, and various rockfish like chilipepper and canary. The fishery has undergone significant change in the last decade, recovering from a serious collapse and transitioning to an entirely new management system where fishermen are allocated individual quota amounts to catch for each species. This program has achieved conservation goals, including stock rebuilding, reduced bycatch and discards, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program recently upgraded over 20 groundfish species from its “Avoid” list to a “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” ranking.

While the quota system has helped to achieve improved conservation, the transferability of the quota presents a risk to smaller communities that can lose access to the fishery and the economic benefits that come from active participation by local fishermen.

That’s where the Fort Bragg Groundfish Conservation Trust comes in. By owning and leasing quota, the Trust will ensure that local fishermen in need have the opportunity to access quota at affordable rates and ensure that long-time fishermen remain fishing, and future generations of fishermen can enter the fishery.


The Fort Bragg Groundfish Conservation Trust is governed by a board that will consist of fishermen, scientists, conservationists, and local stakeholders to represent social, economic and environmental interests.

“The Fort Bragg Groundfish Conservation Trust was created by fishermen and leaders in Fort Bragg that consider themselves the primary stewards of the groundfish resource,” says Kate Labrum of The Nature Conservancy.

She continues, “This new model of community ownership taken by the Groundfish Conservation Trust and other quota funds in California solidifies their investment in ocean health and the groundfish fishery.”

“Fishermen in Fort Bragg and local leaders have been working with The Nature Conservancy since 2011 to help fishermen and communities transition into the new Catch Share Management program,” says Michelle Norvell, President of the Trust.  “Five years later, the relationship has developed more into a strategic partnership – sharing many of the same goals for the fishery and community.”

With The Nature Conservancy making it possible to increase access to the groundfish fishery through the sale of quota share, the California Fisheries Fund was first in line to extend its help to secure the funding needed to complete the acquisition.   The California Fisheries Fund is an innovative fisheries finance program that provided the Trust with a low-interest loan to purchase The Nature Conservancy’s quota.

“We were lucky to work with a group of dedicated, and like-minded people at the California Fisheries Fund to secure the needed funding and are thankful to have them as a new partner,” said Norvell.

“I feel like we have a lot of work head, but we can all breath a little easier with the Trust established – fishermen will have an opportunity to benefit from a sustainable fishery, which will help maintain the historical culture of commercial fishing in Fort Bragg.”

The Trust is actively looking to connect with local fishermen in the Limited Entry Groundfish Fishery, who need to access additional fishing quota to keep their operations going.The Trust is setup to lease fish immediately to local fishermen in need.

To get information on the species the Trust has to offer in leases, go to – and search for “Noyo” from the vessel or quota share tab. To speak to someone directly and to find out more information about the Groundfish Conservation Trust, contact the Trust’s President Michelle Norvell at

Photos by Corey Arnold.