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Originally published Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 10:20 AM

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Feds see early signs of Pacific fishery recovery

More boats were sold and more fishermen are looking for work along the West Coast after one of the West Coast's most valuable commercial fisheries was declared an economic disaster in 2000.

Associated Press

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HALF MOON BAY, Calif. —

More boats were sold and more fishermen are looking for work along the West Coast after one of the West Coast's most valuable commercial fisheries was declared an economic disaster in 2000.

But federal statistics are showing the signs of a comeback among these so-called groundfish fishermen, who ply deep waters for dozens of species, such as sablefish and thornyheads.

Conservation efforts and a 2-year-old contentious quota system called "catch shares" appear to be helping. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the groundfish fishery industry hauled in $54 million in 2011, up from an average of $38 million over the previous five years.

But worries remain in some corners that the program in the long run will benefit big operations over small family-run fishing businesses.

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