Astoria, Oregon fisherman Kevin Dunn is familiar to EDF’s Pacific Ocean team because we worked with him closely to redesign fishing nets and reduce bycatch. Now he’s becoming familiar to millions of others through a Whole Foods Market commercial that debuted during the World Series.
The Whole Foods ad is a great illustration of a simple but powerful idea: well-designed fishery management systems can not only result in conservation gains and a healthier environment, but also economic gains for the people that rely on the ocean for their livelihood.
This has been a big year for fishermen in the West Coast groundfish catch share program. It received a sustainability certification from the Marine Stewardship Council and an upgrade in sustainability ratings from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program for many of the fish they catch. When the MSC certified the fishery sustainable, it noted that this was the most diverse and complex fishery ever considered for certification, and emphasized the important role that catch shares played in recovering the fishery.
The fact that Kevin and his crew now represent the very best in sustainable seafood sourcing is remarkable, and very hopeful. In 2000, the fishery was formally declared a disaster due to decades-long mismanagement. EDF worked with fishermen and seafood suppliers to turn this fishery around by advancing new management solutions, including catch shares. We also provided tools to help fishermen and suppliers through the transition — such as innovative new lending mechanisms like the California Fisheries Fund. Today their trawl catch is “independently rated for sustainability; traceable from dock to store” and they are part of a durable industry that supplies about 250 million pounds of sustainable seafood every year.
Kevin and his boat the Iron Lady are also featured in a 3-minute YouTube video with Whole Foods supplier Bornstein Seafoods, the company to which Kevin delivers his catch. It’s a nice glimpse of what our West Coast fishermen friends do for a living and the positive relationships that often emerge after catch shares go into effect. In traditionally managed fisheries it’s unusual to see fishermen partnering closely with seafood processors. But with improved fishery management comes closer cooperation and new possibilities for partnerships between fishermen and seafood buyers.
In addition to forming partnerships, fishermen are able to spend more time innovating with their gear and carefully planning their businesses. The net you see spilling its catch onto the Iron Lady’s deck is one we helped Kevin test. It has a built-in excluder device that allows halibut – a non-target species for Kevin – to escape unharmed. Another example of a solution that works for fish and fishermen!
This is a pivotal time for Scottish fisheries. With the challenges of implementing the European Union’s ambitious Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) coupled with the recent Scottish Government consultation with fishermen and other stakeholders on the future of Scottish quota management, collaboration is essential. This government consultation is an opportunity for change and for fishermen, industry representatives and others to make their views heard. Creating solidarity around key principles is a great way to do this – and it’s even better if those views can be represented across the fleet. The Scottish Whitefish Producer’s Association (SWFPA) recognise this and hosted a workshop in Peterhead, Scotland on October 1 to help jumpstart the conversation about the future of quota management in Scotland.
EDF’s EU oceans team was invited to help facilitate and arranged for representatives from fisheries in Denmark, the United States and Canada to share their knowledge about what it means to go through a system of change. What all of these experiences have a common is that fishermen and fishing representatives must be at the heart of any process towards change. Creating platforms for working collaboratively and exchanging ideas and values can be a great way to carve through the complexity of government proposals while at the same time giving individuals an opportunity to think about what is really important to them. The workshop in Peterhead did just that. Read More »
The fishing industry contributes about $90 billion annually to the U.S. economy, which translates to over one and a half million jobs for American workers.
Sustainably managed fisheries have a higher economic value to fishing dependent communities, than those under unsustainable management. Understanding this fact is of paramount importance to ensuring a sustainable and thriving future for both fishermen and fish in the U.S. and globally.
Our work at EDF Oceans is focused on aligning the economic and environmental incentives for fishermen to ensure a sustainable fishing future and we believe that catch shares are an essential tool to achieving this goal.
A friend of mine recently asked me, ‘Why do you work on fisheries?’
I began to talk about how fisheries is the ultimate tragedy of the commons problem, an economic term coined by Garett Hardin in the 1960s which explains how individuals act in their individual best interest rather than do what is best long term for the group. I talked about how governments are challenged by managing shared natural resources and how this is even more complex with ocean fisheries since we do not see the fish disappear beneath the surface.
That long and “technical” answer may be part of the reason, but it doesn’t fully explain why I do what I do. The real answer is much simpler. I love our oceans. I have spent all my summers on an island on the Swedish west coast called Koster, where the water is clear and full of life. And I grew up in Stockholm – a city surrounded by water. I took my diving license at age 16, as soon as I was allowed, even though this meant training and doing my final dives in February on the east coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea, with sub-zero temperatures and visibility of less than a meter. Read More »
American fishermen are 23 times more likely than the average American worker to die on the job.
That’s a shockingly high number, and it might not surprise you if you’ve watched Deadliest Catch. Amazingly, it’s better than it used to be, and a policy that EDF has championed for a decade has played a significant role.
The on-the-job death rate comes from the Department of Labor’s annual review of workplace fatalities. Each year, the DOL analyzes all on-the-job fatalities (in actual deaths and deaths per 100,000 jobs), and for years, fishermen have held the first or second highest fatality rate. What this year’s numbers don’t show, however, is how some fisheries are making the industry a lot less deadly.
Fishermen face risks from treacherous weather conditions and heavy equipment. In some fisheries, however, the rules that govern when and where they fish actually encourage risky decisions. When fishermen are subjected to rules that limit when they can fish, they find themselves in a race against the clock, the competition, and the weather. Read More »
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, considered by many to be the ultimate arbiter of sustainability for the U.S. seafood market, has released five new reports on the West Coast groundfish fishery. In these new assessments they concluded that almost 40 types of rockfish, sole and other fish species – representing virtually all groundfish caught on the West Coast – are now considered sustainable seafood choices.
This was not always the case. The fishery was declared a federal disaster in 2000. After years of overfishing and declining productivity, the fishing industry began working with Environmental Defense Fund experts and federal regulators to design a new management system that better aligned the interests of fishermen and fish populations. Read More »