Working together to address challenges in Swedish fisheries

iphone-1005Sweden, along with the rest of the EU, is tackling the challenge of phasing out the discarding of fish. While Sweden is a relatively small fishing nation in relation to our Scandinavian neighbours, the conditions for sustainable fisheries and co-management structures are strong. This is especially true after a recent fishermen-led collaboration resulted in recommendations for a new management plan designed to meet the challenges of the discard ban while ensuring a prosperous future for their businesses.

The word “co-management” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. This is especially true when it comes to policymaking processes. I have been working closely with fishermen to improve fisheries management for three years. In this blog post I want to illustrate what co-management means to me and my work and why I believe it is so important to recognize that fishermen are at the centre of lasting solutions.

 

Setting the stage for collaboration:

With EDF looking to drive positive change in fisheries management across Europe, and strong prospects for meaningful reform in Sweden, I recently moved back to my home country to lead this work. Before this, Environmental Defense Fund had organised a fisheries exchange to British Colombia for Swedish fishermen and managers, showcasing the local methods of fishery management and offering an opportunity for our Swedish group to quiz Canadian fishermen on their experiences with their system.

Building on this exchange, and from my new base in Gothenburg, we held follow-up meetings with all those who took part to identify key take-home messages and next steps as well as how these ideas might be applicable in the Swedish context. One important take-home message from the exchange, for fishermen and managers alike, was how well the managers and the fishermen in British Colombia worked together. Fishermen were seen as natural partners and critical participants in the decision-making process.

With this experience in mind, Peter Olsson—a Swedish fisherman partner who is well known within the industry—and I, with huge support from EDF staff and associates, initiated a co-management process in Sweden.

 

The challenge: successfully implement the European Union’s Landing Obligation

iphone-1039The landing obligation (or ‘discard ban’) requires the fishermen to keep and land all quota species, including catch that would have previously been discarded due to lack of quota or value. To ensure input from fishermen when figuring out how to comply with this obligation, whilst maintaining sustainable, profitable businesses, we asked the fishermen’s organisations to identify members that represented a wide variety of gear types, areas and vessel sizes from four key Swedish fisheries.

These members then constituted four working groups that were given a weighty task: develop recommendations for a quota management system that – crucially – didn’t put the small-scale fleet at risk while also ensuring that large-scale vessels, subject to the landing obligation, could secure a future in fishing.

Government participation was vital to ensuring a fruitful outcome to the co-management process, so it was of huge importance that the Swedish Marine Agency took part in meetings with the group throughout. They offered valuable insight into what was legally possible, and were able to share experiences from previous quota management changes.

 

A new management plan designed by fishermen:

A testament to the success of this process: recommendations jointly developed, in a process led for and by fishermen, have formed the foundation of a public consultation on a new demersal management system for key Swedish fisheries. This was published last month by the Marine Agency for public comment, and the new system is expected to be introduced on the water from January 2017. This case was successful because fishermen saw a challenge that needed to be resolved, and they realized that their participation in finding a solution was the best way forward for everyone involved.

Looking ahead to the new management system, we know it won’t be perfect, and not every fisherman will be happy, but it is now far more accepted in the fishing community than it would have been because fishermen were involved from the beginning, were assured that no fleet segment was overlooked or disadvantaged in the creation of this policy, and gained a sense of ownership over it. This is a huge positive step forward because not only will this increase understanding and acceptance as well as the probability of compliance with the new system, it will also likely perform better as it is grounded in what fishermen know works on the water, not on what sounds good within the four walls of an office.

That to me is co-management: putting the practitioners front and centre in crafting the solution, and enabling them to work together with managers to address challenges facing a fishery. This collaboration, with clear mandates and high level objectives, leads to more efficient and successful fisheries management.  I am now relishing the challenge of seeing this system operate successfully on the water, and supporting Swedish fishermen in a sustainable future, built on their own terms.

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New Management Measures Needed in Essential Tuna Fisheries

img_6322-002Tuna are one of the most iconic fish species, recognized all over the world for their importance ecologically, economically and culturally. As top predators, tuna—like sharks—are extremely important in structuring and regulating marine ecosystems, which in turn helps make the ocean more resilient to a changing climate and other stressors.  Tuna are one of the most popular seafood products consumed around the world, but at present almost half (46%) of global tuna stocks are overfished or are slightly overfished[1].

Given the importance of the species, and the challenges facing them, setting clear management goals and mechanisms to achieve these goals is necessary to ensure the long term viability of Pacific tuna fisheries. Read More »

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New Report Highlights Challenges, Opportunities, and Cost-Modeling of Electronic Fisheries Monitoring Programs

pacific-sascha-burkardOne of the keys to effective fisheries management in the 21st century is accountability. Accountability requires having timely and accurate data. Electronic monitoring (EM) is gaining momentum in U.S. fisheries and abroad as an efficient means of meeting accountability requirements. Yet the ‘recipe’ for implementation of EM has not been perfected, and the price tag – and who pays – is not always clear. These challenges partly explain why the rate of uptake has been painfully slow, even as industry increasingly bears the brunt of human observer costs without any cheaper alternatives.

Recognizing the need to better understand the costs associated with EM, EDF’s Pacific team engaged a group of experts – Dr. Gil Sylvia, Dr. Michael Harte and Dr. Chris Cusack of Oregon State University – to analyze the costs of fishery monitoring systems such as EM and traditional At-Sea Observers (ASO). The goal of this research is to describe the state of EM in U.S. fisheries with both agency and industry stakeholders to better enable them to compare costs and tradeoffs between EM and ASO programs.  If monitoring costs go down, profitability goes up, and everyone wins. Read More »

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5 Reasons for Hope on World Fisheries Day 2016

This World Fisheries Day, we’re optimistic about the future.

Despite major challenges facing our oceans, fishing communities around the world can be thriving and abounding in fish within our lifetimes. Improving management and practices can lead to healthier oceans that in turn support more fish in the water, more food for communities and improved livelihoods for fishermen.

We are optimistic that this brighter future is within reach.

Here are 5 reasons why: 

  1. The Tremendous Potential of Our Oceans: Our oceans can support more harvests, more profits and more fish biomass in the water if managed sustainably. New research undertaken with our partners at the University of California – Santa Barbara and the University of Washington shows we can have more fish in the water, more fish to feed a growing planet and more money to support the world’s fishing communities in our lifetimes under a management system of improved policies and practices. The research shows that the most gains can come from establishing secure fishing rights, which ends the desperate race to overfish, and empowers fishing communities to be stewards of their resource. Learn more about our global work.
  2. Belize Adopts Fishing Rights, Nationwide: In June 2016, Belize made history by becoming the first country in the world to adopt a national, multispecies secure fishing rights program for small-scale fisheries. This groundbreaking policy came after years of struggling to address illegal fishing and the threat of overfishing in Belize. In order to protect the vital barrier reef ecosystem along with the livelihoods of local fishermen and the food security for all Belizeans, two pilot sites were launched in July 2011 to explore secure fishing rights options. The results were incredible. Fishermen enjoyed better catches and decreases in illegal fishing activity, all while reef fish populations started to recover. The pilot programs were so successful that fishing communities worked to get “Managed Access” implemented nationwide. Learn more about this historic milestone.
  3. Celebrating 12 fish that are delicious and sustainable: Knowing which fish are good sustainable choices can sometimes be difficult, even for the most informed fish buyers. That’s why the Eat These Fish Campaign highlights twelve US fish species that have come back from the brink and are ready for menus and plates all over the country. The campaign aims to raise awareness and appreciation for the comeback of U.S. fisheries and many underutilized fish in order to help fishermen, energize chefs and strengthen the supply chain for sustainable seafood. The campaign has been a great success with events in New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and beyond that bring together fishermen, chefs and others across the seafood industry. Learn more about the Eat These Fish Campaign.
  4. Fishing Rights in Sweden’s Demersal Fishery:In 2013, the countries bordering the Skagerrak in the North Sea (Sweden, Denmark and Norway) discussed implementing a ban on throwing, or “discarding” fish overboard when they caught too many fish or fish that were too small. This ban, or “landing obligation,” became a cornerstone of the reformed EU’s Common Fisheries Policy which was finalized in 2014. This policy created controversy in Sweden because their collective quota allocation system uses weekly allowances, meaning the implementation of the landing obligation could cause the shutdown of the entire fleet if a quota for one species is exhausted. It was clear that a new management system was needed. Thanks to key leaders in the Swedish fishery, Swedish fishermen were able to come together to identify challenges and recommend new management options. The new system—which most likely will be implemented in January 2017—will enable fishermen to swap quotas so they can balance their catches with their quotas, avoiding shutdowns for the country’s most important fisheries in 2017. Learn more about our work in Sweden.
  5. The State of US Fisheries is Strong: We have a lot to be proud of when it comes to fisheries management in the United States. This year’s NOAA Status of Stock Report confirmed that the management reforms implemented over the last decade are delivering remarkable results across the country. For example, it showed that the Fish Stock Sustainability Index (FSSI) – the composite index that tracks the health of key commercial and recreational stocks that account for 85% of total catch – is continuing to increase and hit an all-time high in 2015. These promising numbers are a result of fishermen, managers and conservationists working to end unsustainable management and implement reforms that incentivize conservation. Find out more about the positive state of U.S. fisheries.

 

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Securing Fish, Food and Livelihoods: Charting a Collaborative Course to Brexit

lyme-regis-fishing-boats-small-scale(Reposted from cfoodUW.com) The ‘Brexit’ vote to leave the European Union (EU) represents an unprecedented step-change in EU and United Kingdom (UK) politics.  In the fisheries sphere, what came as a blow for many, especially those who worked to secure environmental gains from the last reform round of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), was seen as a big victory by others: particularly fishermen, many of whom view Brexit as an opportunity to take back control of their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), to catch and land more fish within Britain, and to help shape a new political framework specifically tailored to the UK for effective management of the marine resource.

Whatever side of the fence you sit on, one thing is certain: the UK is a big player in EU fisheries. Politically, the UK is a top voting power in the European Parliament, with a strong reputation for pushing through ambitious environmental policies. Economically, the UK boasts the largest processing sector in the EU and has the third largest fleet in terms of catching power. The UK will continue to be a substantial fishing power post-Brexit, so it is important that countries come together to ensure that policies and practices are coherently designed to work for fish and fishermen, regardless of the political situation. Read More »

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West Coast Fisherman Brad Pettinger Honored at White House as ‘Champion of Change for Sustainable Seafood’

brad-pettingerOn October 7, in a first-of-its-kind event honoring Champions of Change for Sustainable Seafood, our friend Brad Pettinger was honored for helping to turn around a fishery that was declared a federal disaster in 2000. Brad serves as director of the Oregon Trawl Commission and was a driving force behind the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) landmark 2014 certification of the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery as well managed and sustainable.

Brad’s recognition as a Champion of Change is an acknowledgement of the tough times that he and many other West Coast fishermen endured as their fishery failed and they struggled to bring it back. Brad often recalls when it hit rock bottom, and his wife suggested one day that maybe it was time to sell their boat. “Honey, I said to her, there’s nobody to sell the boat to!” remembers Brad. “You see, nobody wanted to buy the boats, because they couldn’t see a future for the fishery. It was a rough, rough time for everyone involved.”

From that point forward Brad put his shoulder to the wheel, attending every meeting of the Pacific Fishery Management Council for years, helping to hammer out the framework for a catch share fishery management program. That program – which launched in January of 2011 – allocated specific annual quota amounts to trawl fisherman based on their catch history, eliminated the “race for fish” culture of the groundfish fleet, dramatically reduced bycatch, and ushered in a new era of accountability and cooperation among fishermen and regulators. Read More »

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