When it comes to threatened Pacific species, groundfish rarely get the glory. They are not as charismatic as orcas, nor is their life history as inspiring as salmon’s. As seas warm and the threats of climate change take effect, what these bottom-dwellers—and the cultures that depend on them— do have going for them is an incredible and unexpected comeback story. Historically, the Pacific groundfish fishery was run as a derby—essentially a race for fish. By the 1970s, massive quantities of fish and bycatch were being hauled in via trawl nets all along the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. But by the late 1990s, research began to reveal signs of overfishing among groundfish, which includes dozens of species that live near the ocean bottom, such as rockfish, roundfish, and flatfish. Since many of these species are long-lived, they are slow to grow and reproduce, meaning they’re also slow to recover from overharvesting. As the century turned, managers scrambled to close certain areas to fishing and reduce catch limits to prevent collapse. “The first decade of the millennium, we were in sort of a frantic panic mode trying to gather more scientific information,” says Gretchen Hanshew, a fisheries management specialist […]


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